Kick-Ass 2 (2013) dir: Jeff Wadlow

I loved Kick-Ass (see my original Kick-Ass write up!) and thought it truly great.

Or to put it in perspective: my wife hates comic book movies.  Her verdicts:

The Dark Knight: “Boring.” She’s watched it three times, but only the first 10 minutes on each occasion.

Watchman: “Fuck off.  It’s a little boys film.”

Spider-man 2:  Fell asleep. I remember this was on my birthday – a day when I can choose to do anything (it’s my BIRTHDAY for CHRISSAKE!) We went to see it after 3 hours of arguing about my choice.

Avengers Assemble? Don’t even go there…she’d been ruined by the first two Hulk movies.

And she is not at all keen on extreme movie violence either.

Double whammy.  So I dragged her kicking and screaming to see the original Kick-Ass . At the end of the movie, as the credits rolled, she turned to me and said: “I’d see that again”.

And we have. Loads! So she was dead keen to see the sequel as well! Hurrah!

I know Kick-Ass 2 has had some shoddy reviews but that doesn’t always reflect the enjoyment that you can get from watching a movie. So…

Dave (Kick-Ass) and Mindy (Hit-Girl) are now at high school, Chris (Red-Mist) wants revenge on Kick-Ass for the death of his Dad in Kick-Ass the Original and to become the worlds first super-villain. Dave wants to train to be a real superhero, Mindy decides to quit as Hit-Girl and to become accepted amongst her bitchy high school peers, so Dave/Kick-Ass teams up with some other superheroes.

It all goes pear-shaped. As does the film.

First 30 minutes in and I’m wondering… what the fuck has happened? Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Chloë Grace Moretz. Christopher Mintz-Plasse. All great actors. But they’re delivering lines flat and gurning away in their close-ups – they’re just…bad. Did the director not turn up, just go home early or what? I found it painful to watch.  Thank heavens for John Leguizamo and Morris Chestnut in their roles.

Then Colonel Star & Stripes (Jim Carey) arrives. We start to get a few good lines, however now we’re getting some odd edits and the fight scenes are choppy.  But at least the movie is finally becoming entertaining – super villain side-kick Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) makes use of a lawnmower in a pretty novel way – and the story is picking up… and it stays “entertaining” all the way to the end.

Hell there is even a particularly nice action sequence with Hit Girl atop a moving  van as she’s being shot at.  She clambers all over it as it speeds along (what looks like very British countryside) and takes out the bad guys – knocking them under and over the other traffic . Unfortunately it didn’t half remind me of the good (or bad) days of the Sir Roger Moore James Bond movies:  great action, brilliant stunt work, nice humour, cut to actor – shit fake background – sequence ruined.

And I think that is the problem. It’s a fake Kick-Ass movie. Pretending to be Kick-Ass the Original. Photocopying all that was great about the Kick-Ass the Original but really only a faded and skewiff two dimensional Xerox.

So ultimately “entertaining” but a major disappointment.  My wife agrees.

I wonder if they’ll let me direct Kick-Ass 3?

A Good Day to Die Hard (2013) dir: John Moore

A friend worked on this movie. He overheard this conversation between the Producer and the Studio:

Producer : Yeah we’re making this action movie with Jai Courtney. It’s got huge explosions, and you wouldn’t believe the amount of cars we destroy. It’s cool. Really cool. The director’s really great at blowing shit up! Looks fabulous.

Studio: (a long pause) ……Jai who?

Producer: Er…Jai Courtney a great Australian actor!

Studio:  We’re talking about the same movie right?

Producer:  Er…

Studio: The movie we’ve given you 150…million…dollars…for… to shoot in Eastern Europe?

Producer:  Er…

Studio: I think we have a problem.

Producer: (thinking on his feet)  Trust me – it’s GRrrrrreat!…. But I can see where you’re going with this.  Tell ya what….give me another $25 miilion and I’ll ask Bruce to come on over. It’ll be a blast.

Studio:  Bruce Willis? Hmmm…Tricky…Very tricky.

Producer: Look we’ll change the title of the movie! Make it .. ‘Eat shit and Die Hard’ or something.

Studio: Hmm. Die Hard 5. I like it. I like it alot.  But…..What about the script?  You’ve shot most of the movie already!!!

Producer: No problemo! Bruce is GREAT. He’ll make up some shit on the spot.  No one will know the difference. Audiences today are stupid 5 year olds. They don’t care about stuff like that. Blow shit up! Flip cars! Michael Bay does it all the time and  look at the huge amount of money he makes.

Studio: You have a point there.

Producer: My mate Geoff is here. He’s bald. I can drop him into all the 2nd unit shots we’re going to do in Moscow until  Brucey boy arrives.  Anything else we’ll just stick Brucey in front of a green screen and have him stare or smirk.  Then cut him into the action. He doesn’t even have to get off his own couch.

Studio: What about the villain? Die Hard movies have to have a great villain.

Producer: Way ahead of you there. After all, what do you pay me for? We’ve shot stuff with one villain but I’ll get another. Two for the price of one. And we”ll use them less, but make ’em speak Russian – they’ll appear serious and scary and intelligent and… and… and… Anyway all that good actory stuff.  All at the same time.  But we’ll give them less screen time. …Less is more. What do you say? It’ll be GRrrrrrreat!  Humungous box office moola!

Studio: You know I think this might work.

Producer:  Here’s my bank account details.

The Last Stand (2013) dir: Jee-woon Kim

Ok, this is Arnie’s new film and for any of you asking – is this really a small indie movie? – I’m going to mention it  because:

1. I really liked the director’s other films that I’ve seen, especially his asian western ‘The Good, The Bad, and The Weird’ (which is really worth trying to get hold of – I can still remember the opening scene which starts high up in the sky and tracks a bird down towards, and into, a moving locomotive)

2. It is an Independent movie

3. It’s very enjoyable (in a fast food kind of way)

4. It seems to have been unfairly maligned

Often in this genre there are idiotic plot points and characters doing stupid things to drive the story forward or to justify an action sequence. Suprisingly I found characters doing fairly credible things (for a movie),  and the plotting was actually pretty intelligent and full of little surprises.

The basic premise: bad guy escapes from the FBI in Los Angeles,  drives off in a super fast car (that even the FBI helicopters can’t keep up with),  has his gang clear the route of FBI and SWAT teams – leaving only Arnie’s sherrif,  ‘Ray’, and his deputies to stop said bad guy at the border to Mexico.

The escape is very neat, and the action is all nicely staged (stunts seemed old school rather than CGI) though I would like to have seen more of the director’s trademark visual flair come through – it was definitely muted – I think this was probably due to the constraints of a US film production.

The film is peppered with gallows humour (though the odd Arnie one liner was a bit groan inducing), and it has a certain joie de vivre.

If you are an action fan or an Arnie fan, pre-Eraser,  there is much to enjoy here!

How I Spent my Summer Vacation (2012) dir: Adrian Grunberg

First of all I got a bollocking when I took my wife to this as I didn’t tell her it was a Mel Gibson film. She used to be a huge fan but now refuses to watch anything with him in it – which is, I guess, how much of America feels about him at the moment. Anyway, I wanted to see it because there were elements of the story that were of interest to me and I thought – once it starts – she’s less likely to drag me out.

This is a lowish budget film for Mel ($20m) and unusually for a film there weren’t loads of producer and company credits at the start of the picture, just his company, Icon.

Mel plays a guy who has stolen loads of cash from a gangster (who would like it back) and crosses into Mexico where he is locked up in a prison – which is more like a small town run by criminals. Here he finds friendship with a boy (Kevin Hernandez who is great) and uses his ill learned skills to survive.

I liked the film, it was entertaining and had some Tarantino type moments in it nicely put together by director Adrian Grunberg (Mel’s 1st AD on Apocalypto). What I found annoying was the voice over which explained the obvious and the night time camera work which produced a poor strobing video effect.

Other than that it had some clever sequences, and if you can ignore Mel Gibson’s personal life, is a movie worth checking out.

It has the appaling title of ‘Get the Gringo’ in the USA which would have only worked if it was a Tarantino or Rodriguez movie, who are a big influence on this.

Oh yes, I think my wife liked it too but I am going to have to let her choose the next ten movies for us to go and see.

Sometimes her choices are…questionable.

The Raid (2011) dir: Gareth Evans

Or ‘The Raid: Redemption’ to those of you in the USA. This is so much more than a small indie martial arts action flick.

I’d been looking forward to this movie for ages. It had a trailer which screamed: “this is a cool film! Check me out and don’t worry I promise the film will be even better than the trailer! Trust me!!!”. And you know what? It sure is.

I’m a huge martial arts fan so tend to be less keen on Hollywood style action sequences which involve fast cutting and multiple angles – usually either attempting to generate excitement or destroying the skill of the performers involved. This is old school fighting with some modern twists – which looks dangerous (and is) – executed with huge skill – not only by the lead (Iko Uwais) but by a whole host of other performers.

The story is crisp, a swat team get trapped in a building full of bad guys trying to kill them, but what elevates the film from a good action movie to greatness is the sound design, the score, the stylish direction and the little details – such as, well that would be telling.

The combat is hardcore, such as a knife battle involving multiple knife men, and fights end in fast close up gory kills with the odd “eep!!!” moment. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s visceral, tense and exciting.

All credit must go to the writer/director, Welshman Gareth Evans, who has taken an opportunity to make a movie in Indonesia – in a language he doesn’t understand – and smash a six (or homerun) out of the stadium.

Update:

You want the trailer here:


http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/sony/theraidredemption/

Not some of the other bastardised ones that distributors have been putting out.

Kick-Ass (2010) dir: Matthew Vaughn

So busy trying to get my own film up and running that it’s taken me over a week to write this up. And yes it’s not really a small movie as it cost $30m, but it’s an indie movie made to look and compete with Hollywood fair.

Arron Johnson is a high school kid who loves comic books. He poses this question. Why aren’t there any real super heroes? So he buys a wet suit and mask and decides to fight crime as ‘Kick-Ass’. And immediately finds out why there aren’t real crime fighting super heroes. However, he becomes a youtube sensation and comes to the attention of Father and Daughter crime fighting team ‘Big Daddy’ (aka Damon Macready aka Nic Cage) and ‘Hitgirl’ (aka Mindy Macready aka Chloë Grace Moretz). ‘Nuff said.

It’s these last two characters and their relationship that really elevates an already good movie to greatness. This is also easily Nic Cage’s best film in ages – it’s almost like his character here is an older, slightly more domesticated ‘Sailor Ripley ‘ (his character in Wild at Heart) – you can imagine ‘Hit Girl’ being his offspring. And Chloë Grace Moretz, a seasoned actress already at 13, is, to put it bluntly, amazing.

Sure it is going to upset some members of the audience, what with a little girl killing and maiming the bad guys as expletives roll off her tongue. But this is a comic book movie, made by comic book fans, and in conjunction with, the great comic book writer Mark Millar. Often laugh out loud and jaw dropping. The script by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn just zings with energy and although there is plenty of action it’s often the small scenes that are so memorable. My favourite is a quiet little interlude where dad Damon and his little girl Mindy are sitting in a diner eating ice cream sodas together, and she’s telling him what she wants for her birthday. And she asking for (I think!) a puppy dog and all sorts of girly fluffy toys – all the while her dad’s face is drooping with disappointment and sadness. Then Mindy looks into her dad’s eyes and goes. “I’m just fucking with you Daddy!” and then describes the lethal weaponry that she’d really like and his face lights up with pride and happiness!

Matthew Vaughn directs with utter control as the film could have easily have been terrible. His best work yet.

I loved it and can’t wait to see it again. Even my wife who pretty much hates comic book related films (she was bored by The Dark Knight for goodness sake and refused to come to Watchmen) was converted and has stated that she would be happy to accompany me! All is well in my household.