Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-AssReleased: April 16, 2010. Directed by: Matthew Vaughn. Starring: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloë Grace Moretz. Runtime: 117 min.

The superhero niche genre is a prominent one in Hollywood these days. Whether it follows a big name hero like Batman or Superman, or if it’s a critical disaster like something akin to “Green Lantern,” they usually make awesome money. It’s always refreshing to see a superhero movie made with a low budget.

The story follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) who wonders one day, why has no one ever decided to become a super hero? He’s an unnoticed student and comic book fan who buys a suit and becomes a super hero, even though he is powerless, has no preliminary training or any true reason to do so.

“Kick-Ass” makes me happy for the future of R-rated super hero movies. This has a satirical edge and meta way about it. I love all the homages to super hero movies and the general universe comic books create. I think people who read comic books can respect it a bit more, but this is such an entertaining piece of cinema. The action sequences are tons of fun, and the comedy is just as impressive. The characters are colourful and this is probably my favourite movie based on a comic book. It gives audiences an interesting look into the world of super heroes without any powers. It does raise the question: Why hasn’t anyone put on the cape before and fought crime?

Probably because they’d get their asses kicked. And when they begin to be threatened by the mafia, things don’t get better – they get worse, obviously. That is thanks to Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) who are planning a revenge plot on mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), after D’Amico framed Big Daddy, former police officer, and put him in jail for a very long time. (Hit Girl is going along with it because those are the values she was taught. This might disturb some audience members.)

The action is deriously entertaining. Director Matthew Vaughn balances the satirical humour with dark violence, that wouldn’t feel out of place in a Quentin Tarantino picture. One particular scene is hard on the eyes – but so well-done, and it’s a testament to the movie’s visual style and charm. This is a memorable experience, with a great cast.

Nicolas Cage was practically born to play the role of Big Daddy, a darker version of Batman. Some might question a little girl playing the role of a vulgar killing machine, but she (Moretz as Hit Girl) gets some of the biggest laughs and is included in some of the coolest sequences. Moretz has a great career ahead of her. Lyndsey Fonseca is there to up the sexiness of the movie. The film’s finale is astounding and the entertainment rarely dies down throughout. Blood and gore hardly looked so nice in a super hero flick. Vaughn expertly balances the action and the comedy, and I can’t decide which is better.

You care about the characters. The universe created here is magnificent. Aaron Tayl0r-Johnson fits the character of Dave well because, initially, he’s a huge geek. We get to see his process of becoming a character that can really kick ass without the help of spider bites or fancy gadgets. With no power comes no responsibility.

Action, crime, comedy, great characterization, blood, superheroes. This movie’s got it all.

Score95/100

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A discussion of Red (2010)

RedReleased: October 15, 2010. Director: Robert Schwentke. Stars: Bruce Willis, Mary-Louise Parker, Morgan Freeman. Runtime: 111 min. 

I’m joined by Dave over at Dave Examines Movies for a fairly short discussion of the 2010 actioner “Red,” starring Bruce Willis, Mary Louise Parker, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich and Morgan Freeman, to name a few members of the core cast. It seems that, as an effort to appeal to older audiences, many studios have making movies that appeal to the older audience; like “Hope Springs” or “The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.” But “Red” is no heartwarming dramedy – it’s an exciting action comedy, that came a few months after the release of Sylvester Stallone’s attempt to launch “The Expendables” franchise. Like “The Expendables,” it isn’t great in the story department – but it’s a truly fun experience.

The story follows Frank Moses (Bruce Willis), a former black-ops agent, who, after his life was threatened, has to regroup his old team in a last effort to survive and uncover his assailants.

Now, for the discussion I had with Dave… (Enjoy!)

Daniel: So Dave, how’d you like the movie?

Dave: I thought it was good, funny, and handled rather well for an ensemble comedy. I had some issues with how memorable it was though, how about you?

Daniel: I liked it, as well. Great fun, at least it’s more memorable than the other Willis geriatric actioner, “The Expendables” – so that has to count for something. What was your main issue with it?

Dave: I basically realized that the story in general was rather forgettable. I have seen “Red” once before when it first came out, and for a film that isn’t even five years old, I couldn’t remember what the premise was even about past a bunch of old guys in humorous action sequences, and yes, a lot of fun. To me, that seems to suggest little focus was actually spent on the story. For what it was, it’s exciting and hilarious to watch in the moment, but there are some things that escape your memory as time passes.

Daniel: Now that I think about that, and even though I only watched for the first time about a month ago, I’m only remembering the premise as Willis is a dangerous retiree who has to survive against a bunch of people who are trying to kill him. And I can’t remember what their motivations really were, to kill him. But do comic book adaptations usually have generic stories? It seems so, but like you say, I find it a blast – it certainly has a rewatchability factor.

Dave: It does, I agree. You can rewatch this for the sheer enjoyability of the thing. This is one of the only instances where I say screw the story, it was presented in such a fashion that you can have a blast watching. In some respect, it reminds me of a humorous version of “The Expendables”, but that’s fine, given the fact that I wasn’t a huge fan of “The Expendables.” For Red, you have a great display of chemistry between the characters and a good amount of individual humor shared between them. You might not care about *why* they are doing the things they are doing, but you do care about the characters themselves, and love watching them in action.

Daniel: Definitely! For a movie that doesn’t truly care about the story, I at least don’t have the trouble I do trying to explain the plot of something like that “The Expendables” or, even though they aren’t alike, “Grown Ups“. The characters and the action are what matter, here. The chemistry is on-point. I think the relationship between Willis and Parker is charming. I think Marvin is the best character. Malkovich is so hilarious as that eccentric.

Dave: I just love Malkovich in anything he is a part of. That man is all over the place, and I love it. As for how the movie looks: It set a tone, and it stuck to it. There is never a moment in the film where you feel like something was done out of place. You understand the world the film takes place in, and it remains consistent throughout. Is there anything negative you have to say about it?

Daniel: Agreed, director Robert Schwentke knows what he wants to do with it. Not majorly, no. For an ensemble piece, everyone gets a chance to shine, even if I felt Morgan Freeman wasn’t utilized as well as he could have been. And I was underwhelmed by the antagonists. And, like we discussed, the lack of greatness in the story department. I find when the film doesn’t have the greatest story, it’s more difficult to discuss. Do you feel the need to mention anything about it?

Dave: I would just have to say the lack of a memorable storyline dragged this film to a place it didn’t want to be in. Having that downfall basically made Red a tad forgettable in an area that will hurt them in the end. Years after people watch it, and when it pops up in a conversation, they’ll be saying, “Remember that one funny movie…with the old people…and all the violence?” Well, that could be a number of films. This film is unique in a way, it just doesn’t have the long-term click that makes it fully memorable… Do you have a rating for it?

Daniel: Hahah exactly. I’d give it a 78, because it’s not quite at an 80, lol. And even though I’m not a fan of giving random-ish scores like that any more, I think I have to bend the rules for this one.  What would you give it?

Dave: Close to yours, actually, I gave it a 76, because I see it as better than 75. Thanks for discussing Red with me, and I hope we can do it again sometime soon!

Daniel: Nice! Thanks for the discussion, Dave. I hope so, too! Would you want to discuss the sequel once we both see it?

Dave: I was going to suggest the same thing. Sounds like a plan!

Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief (2010)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians - The Lightning ThiefReleased: February 12, 2010. Director: Chris Columbus. Stars: Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson. Runtime: 118 min.

Since the “Harry Potter” franchise was almost finished, this studio beat the new crowd of Young Adult adaptations. “Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief” headed that crowd.

Percy Jackson (Logan Lerman) is an average New York teenager battling with things like anxiety and ADHD. Soon enough, after Zeus’s (Sean Bean) lightning bolt is stolen, he finds out he is the son of Poseidon, god of the Sea. It is assumed that Percy has stolen the Bolt — and he must set out on a quest to prove his innocence and prevent a war between the gods. He won’t be going alone though, as by his side is Annabeth (Alexandria Daddario), daughter of Athena, and his guardian, Grover (Brandon T. Jackson).

“The Lightning Thief” was supposed to be the next Harry Potter, with the same director (Chris Columbus), but it ultimately failed. While it has some of the same visual effects of “HP,” it lacks the fresh magic. It’s not that the primary three “heroes” aren’t likeable, because they are, it’s just that the familiar plot doesn’t have a lot of surprises.

At least it has a great cast (from Sean Bean to Pierce Brosnan to Uma Thurman) to carry the film. But everyone is shoved in there in mostly minor roles, it very much feels like it’s trying to be like Harry Potter again, but with more American actors than British. The coming-of-age aspect of the film, where Percy has to adapt to this huge change, is interesting. And his motives are noble, but not exactly his ways to go about them. (He thinks he can rescue someone dear to him from Hades after one training session.) There are a few funny lines, mostly delivered by Brandon T. Jackson. The world is imaginative. I like this family-friendly take on Greek mythology. The movie is certainly watchable, but it’s forgettable and slightly too long.

Score63/100

Grown Ups (2010)

Grown UpsRelease Date: June 25, 2010Director: Denis DuganStars: Adam Sandler, David Spade, Kevin JamesRuntime: 102 min.

“Grown Ups” doesn’t have the strongest plot; or any evident plotline, for that matter. It’s really just a movie about… Five guys, who sound like they want to grow up, but they’re really just big kids at heart. They’re reuniting after thirty years because of the death of their elementary school basketball coach. They’re lifelong friends. Sandler plays the big-time Hollywood agent, Lenny; Rob Schneider plays Rob Hillard who has an appreciation of ladies in their mid-70s; Kevin James plays Eric Lamonsoff, who has a four-year old who still breast feeds, and a daughter with anger issues; Chris Rock is Kurt McKenzie, the nice husband with a nagging wife; and David Spade is the bachelor, Marcus Higgins. The female actresses are decent, mostly just Salma Hayek and Maya Rudolph. The kids are annoying.

No matter how many times you might watch this movie, you’ll only remember the names of Marcus, Lenny and Lamonsoff. There’s very little character development and plot. They’re mostly just comedians hanging around. There’s no focus on plot or characters, because it just isn’t so important to Sandler. Since the plotline isn’t strong, it honestly feels like it could end at any point. I can forgive that a bit more than other movies, though, because at least it doesn’t fail in every aspect. It is a funny movie. There’s chuckles throughout, and two scenes that are hilarious. Most of the humour is hit-and-miss, however, because the majority of the jokes are predictable. And the balance of comedic talent and big laughs is uneven. The direction is also pretty bad. It feels as if Dennis Dugan wasn’t on set for a week.

This is mostly just a forgettable comedy that doesn’t have a particularly good plot. It’s decent background noise, regardless. This still gets a pass.

Score60/100

Note: As much as this is a guilty pleasure of mine, I don’t think upcoming sequel looks very funny at all. I laugh once during the trailer. 

Iron Man 2 (2010)

Iron Man 2Iron Man 2

Release Date: May 7, 2010

Director: Jon Favreau

Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Don Cheadle

Runtime: 124 min

After a great introduction to the Tony Stark/Iron Man character, the first sequel doesn’t impress and it’s overwhelmingly average. The movie doesn’t soar as high as Iron Man can really go. It isn’t a bad addition to Marvel’s collection of movies, it’s just not as great as it could be.

Stark is dying because his arc reactor is spilling poison into his body at this point. The world knows he’s Iron Man. He’s practically the only super hero in the world to ever reveal his identity. I guess that’s what one person gets when they’re 20% (filled with) poison, and 80% ego. That “you can take the man out of the suit, but you can’t take the suit out of the man” character conflict phases Stark. He’s also, of course, facing some ole comic book villains.

Sam Rockwell’s Justin Hammer is much too reserved, and the fantastic actor goes really underused and he hardly has a chance to shine. Mickey Rourke is good as Ivan Vanko. The electric whips he uses are mighty cool. The movie’s finale is great, but everything leading up to the satisfying end; is usually good, rarely boring, fairly silly, and a lot underwhelming.

69/100

Everything Must Go (2010)

Everything Must GoEverything Must Go

Release Date: May 13, 2011

Director: Dan Rush

Stars: Will Ferrell, Rebecca Hall, Christopher Jordan Wallace

Runtime: 97 min

When an alcoholic relapses, causing him to lose his wife and his job, he holds a yard sale on his front lawn in an attempt to start over. A new neighbor might be the key to his return to form.

Everything Must Go is a little dramedy feature about alcoholism and it’s slow, but it is undeniably sweet at its core and can be very charming. The relationship between Ferrell and Wallace’s characters is great to watch grow. Many might not appreciate this for what it truly is because they are expecting laugh-out-loud comedy, but it very much is a dramedy, with drama coming first. It does have a few laughs, but you could count them on your hands. It’s worth a watch, but it isn’t wholly memorable nor does it require repeat viewings, but Ferrell gives a great performance.

70/100

The Social Network (2010)

The Social NetworkReleased: October 1, 2010Director: David FincherStars: Jesse Eisenberg, Andrew Garfield, Justin TimberlakeRuntime: 120 min.

The Social Network tells the great true story the world’s youngest billionaire, the motivated Mark Zuckerberg. The film follows the young computer wiz’s climb to the top, going through past and present to when he apparently steals the idea for Facebook, and when he squeezes his best friend/co-founder out of the business. Often times, the computer talk and mathematical algorithms go right over my head, but the storytelling is very compelling. The brilliant writing by Aaron Sorkin is just one of the greatest things about the film. The music, the editing and the direction are also great. Jesse Eisenberg is great as Mark Zuckerberg, a fine movie star whose sarcastic humour brings Mark to life. He and Andrew Garfield do great jobs of expressing remorse, regret and pain. Justin Timberlake and Armie Hammer also do great jobs.

Score: 100/100