Kick-Ass 2

August 16, 2013 by  
Filed under Jerrod, Reviews

Starring:  Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow (“Never Back Down”)
Written by: Jeff Wadlow (debut)

As a somewhat tongue-in-cheek, extremely violent and profane send-up of the superhero genre still thriving at the box office, 2010’s “Kick-Ass” asked the question: what if normal people decided to be comic book-style heroes? The answer was a decent-enough adventure punctuated by the memorable father-daughter crime fighting duo of Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage, even more unhinged that normal) and Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz, the most foul-mouthed 11-year-old ever). As a comic book movie with a sizeable-enough take at the box office, the release of “Kick-Ass 2” was a foregone conclusion.

Picking up several years after the first film, “Kick-Ass 2” finds Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Mindy Macready (Moretz, not the late country singer) training together to turn Kick-Ass and Hit Girl into a dynamic duo set on cleaning up the streets. After an encounter with some thugs turns bloody, though, Mindy’s guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut) insists she retire from the superhero business. With his would-be partner forced into the life of a normal high school freshman, Dave joins up with a group of vigilantes inspired by Kick-Ass, calling themselves Justice Forever. Led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), the team looks to put an end to crime in the city. Little do they know, though, that the former superhero Red Mist, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse doing that same old Christopher Mintz-Plasse thing), has warped himself into the world’s first supervillan. He’s assembled a team of hired thugs to do two things: burn the city to the ground and destroy Kick-Ass.

While the first film often strained to prove how edgy and subversive it was, “Kick-Ass 2” feels more comfortable positioning itself as a straight-up comic book adventure, which turns out to be the most ho-hum part of the script. Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass comes across as a more-boring Peter Parker, and Mintz-Plasse’s villain, the Mother-Fucker, is yet another delusional, power-hungry nerd role in a career full of them. To the film’s benefit, though, Moretz’s Mindy/Hit Girl gets the meatiest part. A second-act riff on “Mean Girls” is ripe enough for its own movie, hilariously highlighted by a scene featuring a prototypical boy band setting off an adolescent fire deep inside the street-tough Mindy. That plot line, along with a fun turn from Jim Carrey, unfortunately comes to an end too soon as the movie decides to get back to its clash between crowds of non-super powered good and evil people in ridiculous costumes fighting in a warehouse. But I’d much rather watch “Hit Girl Goes to High School.”

Anna Karenina

November 30, 2012 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Keira Knightley, Jude Law, Aaron Taylor-Johnson
Directed by: Joe Wright (“Atonement”)
Written by: Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”)

Give filmmaker Joe Wright (“Atonement”) some credit for being so bold with his decision to make his new retelling of Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina” something audiences have never experienced with this specific story. Not only does he direct it as if were a stage performance, Wright breaks down the wall between the production and his viewers and allows them to see all the backstage tasks it takes to put such a stylish and ornate project together. In doing so, we see sets and backdrops pieced together as actors take their marks, musicians walking through the film providing music for the picture and even a horse race taking place right on stage with real and painted patrons. It all makes for an eye-catching spectacle that breaks the traditional set-up of the cinematic costumed drama.

Besides the wonderfully choreographed scenes led by Wright and the beautiful art direction, the stand outs in “Anna Karenina” are the performances by Keira Knightley as the self-pitying title character and her distressed husband Minister Karenin played by Jude Law. Marital problems are a dime a dozen in these films, but the emotional anguish these two inflict on one another is noteworthy, especially with a piercing screenplay adapted from Tolstoy’s work by screenwriter Tom Stoppard (“Shakespeare in Love”). When Karenin tells Anna, “You are depraved; a woman without honor. I thank God the curse of love is lifted from me,” you can truly feel what betrayal meant in 19th century Russia – at least for them.

Despite a miscasting of a slightly absurd-looking Aaron Taylor-Johnson (“Albert Nobbs”) as Anna’s lover Vronsky and a ham-fisted scene between actors Alicia Vikander (look out for her in Norway’s “A Royal Affair”) and Domhnall Gleeson (“True Grit”) with alphabet blocks, “Anna Karenina” is a nice change of pace to this classic tale. Tolstoy would be proud.