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 long way from home (2013) dir: Virginia Gilbert

A bit of a curiosity for me is this UK/French co-production, as there were things I liked about this film and stuff that really annoyed.

Based on a short story by the writer/director Virgina Gilbert the film tells the story of a retired couple  in their late 60s early 70s, Joseph and Brenda (James Fox and Brenda Fricker), who now spend their empty days in a monotonous routine in the South of France. When they meet a young couple on holiday (Natalie Dormer and Paul Nicholls), Joseph finds himself irresistibly drawn to the woman – the beautiful Suzanne.

So the annoying stuff first:  story? Ahh, it just didn’t really feel meaty enough, the frailty of growing old is touched upon then forgotten and the whole endeavour wasn’t helped by the use of a lot of cutaways (shots of stuff edited in between scenes) and long starts to scenes (often using lengthy pans before the ‘action’ began). For me some of these really jarred and it just felt like they were being used to pad out the film’s 80 odd minute running time. Basically the film could have been a great short film – but then that would have made it a bit of an expensive undertaking.

I’m pretty rock solid when it comes to paying attention in films and suddenly the story picked up dreamatically (and I mean dreamatically):  Joseph lies to his wife, Brenda, about a day trip he is undertaking when in fact he is secretly meeting up with Suzanne. He takes her and her boyfriend, Mark,  to a vineyard just so Joseph can be with her, and there’s a definite sexual frisson happening when they’re together. After the day out Mark wants to thank Joseph by taking him and Brenda  out to dinner.  Joseph makes some excuses. Fails to put Mark off. Oh fuck. How’s Joseph going to handle this? Brenda’s shown a sign of Alzheimers, maybe (we never know), perhaps he’ll use that to make his lie work? Now things are beginning to motor. We’re going some where.

Next scene Joesph’s with Brenda and I discover that I must have misheard the whole thing,  as Brenda clearly knows about this day out – it wasn’t a secret tryst  at all. No lies.  No deceit. No tension.  It was all wishful thinking on my part. Crap.

Sorry but it would have been better if Joseph had lied to his wife about this!

And what the fuck was the old man at the game of Boules about? Please tell me!

And it has a poor use of music…..I’m making the film sound terrible it is not, just really annoying in parts… it could have been…. so…

Stuff I really liked and which make the film worth a look: James Fox and Brenda Fricker. In particular Brenda Fricker who delivers a masterclass in how a look can convey a thousand words. These two fabulous actors raise the film above it’s source material and imbue their characters with real humanity.  They live the dream but the dream is empty.

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.

Albert Nobbs (2011) dir: Rodrigo García

I didn’t know anything about this movie but was curious as Glenn Close was the lead -and having seen her in ‘Damages’ I was reminded that she has been noticeably absent from the big screen recently.

This film is based on the short story ‘The Singular Life of Albert Nobbs’ by Irish novelist George Moore which first appeared around 1918 and Close played Albert in the stage play back in 1982 – the film has been a personal project of hers for a number of years.

I read Empire’s review of this movie before writing this (not something I normally do) and although I love this magazine, I thought the reviewer was being a total dick.

Set some time in the late 19th Century in Dublin, Albert Nobbs is a woman who has masqueraded as a man so that she is able to work as a head waiter in a posh hotel. Dedicated to her job, naïve, introvert and dreadfully lonely, she carefully saves her hard earned money so that she can one day buy her own business. Her world suddenly changes when her actual sex is discovered and this opens her eyes to the possibility of a future where she perhaps doesn’t have to be alone.

It was interesting watching such a quiet understated performance from Glenn Close, no barn storming here, in fact so understated that I could feel how squashed this character had become, a cog in a wheel, not wanting to bring attention to herself, not wanting the masquerade to slip – but still daring to dream.

I’m not going to go through the various plot machinations, but I was kind of expecting the various strands to be predictable and actually – they weren’t. The supporting cast all do pretty well with their Irish accents (to my non-Irish ear anyway) and although small scale I was hooked to the end and came away curious to know whether such things (you’ll know what I mean if you see the film) actually happened.

Micmacs (2009) dir: Jean Pierre Jeunet

After a quiet period I’ve managed to get in 5 movies in the last week or so with a couple more planned for next week! Hurrah! ‘Micmacs’ (‘Shenanigans’ is apparently the best english translation) is, and I quote Jean Pierre Jeunet himself here, “a stupid comedy”. But it’s so much more.

It’s the story of Bazil (Dany Boon). As a child his father was killed by a landmine built by one particular arms company and 30 years later he himself is accidentally shot in the head by a bullet made by a different rival arms company. It all sounds a bit grim but it isn’t. Bazil loses his job but is adopted by a sort of quirky magnificent seven of unusual characters who include the contortionist, the human cannon ball, the human calculator and the super strong (but very old) clockwork toy maker. They help Bazil plot a series of daring escapades to take revenge on the bosses of the arms companies.

Bringing all his visual ‘joie de vivre’ to the table, Jeunet has created a film that is not only wonderful to watch but also great fun. There’s so much delight to be taken just from his distinct visual storytelling style. And so much of the story is told to the audience with just a sequence of images – no chit chat! It makes me want to cut half the dialogue out of the film I’m working on!

There are so few really cinematic directors out there who have such a unique visual style (Tim Burton comes to mind as one) that for full affect Micmacs really deserves to be seen on a big screen.

I’m sure some critics will call it sleight but they miss the point. Bollocks to them. Yes sometimes I occasionally had absolutely no idea what was going on but it didn’t matter one jot. Absolutely marvelous stuff that will leave you with a smile on your face even though there is a serious issue at the film’s heart.

BTW. Here’s something I learned today: Jeunet wrote ‘Amelie’ for Emily Watson and even started working on it with her in London before she pulled out due to ‘personal reasons’.