Saturday, August 17, 2013

Kick Ass 2 Review

Kick Ass 2 Review
Director : Jeff Wadlow

Cast Headliner: Aaron-Taylor Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Jim Carrey, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Original Release Date: August 9th, 2013
            The first Kick-Ass film, based on the comic series of the same name, was a wonderfully unique film. It looked at how a superhero would work in the real world. It was also delightfully violent and humorous, being outrageous despite being in the real world.  By the end, scrawny Dave Lizewski(Aaron-Taylor Jonhson) had become a true super hero called Kick-Ass, and gained a comrade in Hit-Girl/Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), an enemy in Red Mist/Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and lost a mentor in Big Daddy.  What could happen after that?
            Well, Kick-Ass 2 deals with the aftermath of the first film. Dave is adjusting to being a hero still, and after her father’s death Hit-Girl is adjusting to being a normal girl with her new step-father. It’s interesting to see that Kick-Ass has inspired others to become homemade superheroes, and he soon joins a gang called Justice Forever. The members of this are funny and awesome to behold, from Insect Man with his stun batons, Dr.Gravity with his “gravity bat”,  a mom and pop team called Remembering Tommy, the clearly named Night Bitch, and even Marty(Clark Duke) the friend of Kick-Ass who’s is calling himself Battle-Guy ( in one of the funnier scenes of the film when they discover each other). The cast has certainly expanded, doubling if not tripling with many great characters good or evil. The most important member of the team, besides Kick-Ass, is Colonel Stars and Stripes played by the legendary Jim Carrey. Carrey is entirely unrecognizable as the gruff and burly hero. Carrey is always great when he is going extreme in his acting, and this fits right in with his classic roles. The best jokes, and the best punches, come from Colonel Stars who becomes one of the main protagonists. Justice Forever has some great interaction as they fight crime, sort of a street smart version of the Avengers.
            It must be mentioned, without spoiling too much, that pretty much none of the events of Justice Forever involved Hit-Girl. Mindy has her own parallel storyline involving her time in high school and dealing with bullying.  There are some good moments of humor, but unfortunately it feels like a cliché teen movie. This was perhaps done as satire, but in my opinion it really distracts from the vibe of the rest of the movie. I think that’s because this film is both an adaptation of the Kick-Ass 2 comic arc, AND of the Hit-Girl interquel spin off line which focused on her. Luckily, when she is actually being  Hit-Girl she is incredibly awesome as usual.
            Good must always have an evil counterpart, and of course every bad guy character is just as wackyily interesting as Justice Forever. At the end of the first one, Red Mist declared himself as using the new name and attitude “The Motherf#cker”. MFer is quite a villain, oh my. The normally geeky Christopher Mintz-Plasse is deliciously evil and charismatic here, delivering many of the best jokes to even rival Colonel Stars and Hit-Girl in swagger.  MFer’s main henchman Mother Russia is also a fun sight, with special mention of the scene where she takes out three cop cars with her bare hands.
            The (ironic) vibe of extremeness is the main highlight of Kick-Ass 2. Camera cuts feel like a comic book. Action sequences bounce and pop with color.  There’s no such thing as too much blood for this movie, which is a good thing here.   It’s not all zaniness however, as the plot is even more complex and darker than the first film. Things get genuinely emotional and epic sometimes. It’s a rollercoaster of vibes, and it totally works.
            Kick-Ass 2 is a bloody good time.  It feels like more of the same, which has drawn some criticism from fellow peers. However, it’s the same but with the knobs cranked up. There’s more action, more blood, more humor.  It delivers on its deeper themes of looking at what it means to be a hero. Some scenes may be too zany and delve into “stupid” for sure. But overall, it is simply a fun movie. It is entertaining and worth seeing, and it kicks some ass too.   8.6 out of 10

Elysium Review

Elysium Review
Director : Neill Blomkamp

Cast Headliner: Matt Damon, Jodie Foster, Sharlto Copley

Original Release Date: August 9th, 2013

What will the future be like? Will it be better; shall humanity live in a utopia?  Will our flaws manifest themselves into a horrific wasteland of stagnation?  According to director Neill Blomkamp director in this film Elysium, it’s both. The year is 2154 and up in space the most elite citizens and the government have a wonderful, bright existence on the titular Elysium space station. Meanwhile on Earth, at least where we see in Los Angeles, is a gigantic ghetto. Think of it as an extreme version of the Berlin Wall.  In this world, Matt Damon plays Max Da Costa, a robot factory worker in the slums. He has, basically, a very hard life.
For, this film is set in the future and thus classified as science fiction, but it is really more  about sharing a political message too. An obvious class struggle is at play here, with the rich abusing the poor and etc.  At times the message, while perhaps true, can be too preachy. I felt as if some scenes with Max being abused  by cops were unneeded.  And aside from the vile Secretary Delacourt (wonderfully portrayed by Jodie Foster), the government seems to not be that evil aside from being apathetic.   
Most importantly perhaps then is the focus on the story of Max. He ends up needing to reach Elysium, where the machines can fix you. He joins some rather “risky” people, and essentially gets into trouble with the governmental forces.   The plot makes some interesting twists and turns, certainly defying most expectations. It ends up being predictable, but a few moments will certainly shock.
The themes and atmosphere are certainly interesting, but two things shine about this film. The action and special effects during them are stellar. Blomkamp has a knack for creating mind-blowing scenes and using slow motion. The robots, or droids as they’re called ala Star Wars, appear incredibly lifelike. The visuals of the Elysium space station are beautiful, and it’s a different yet equally great kind of beauty to see it be damaged in the fights.   
Now the other thing to mention is Sharlto Copley’s Krueger character. He is one of those perfect villians. A villain so evil, so vile, so mean that you just can’t help but appreciate him. Copley does a great job at being wicked, and all of the heart and humor of the film comes whenever he’s on screen. Ironic in that he is the character that has the highest kill count. Aside form his charisma, he is also formidable combat threat.  Both he and Max are equipped with cyborg strength suit, and even better for him in that he has a plasma shield and a sword. There isn’t much reason to use a sword in a age of plasma guns 100 years from now, but it can be excused in that Krueger is such a superb villain.
            Unfortunately though, Krueger is the only interesting character in the whole movie. Matt Damon is a decent hero, but pretty basic. Love interest Frey is bland, and his comrades in Spider’s gang are slightly annoying.  The scope of the film also could have been more, after District 9 I expected more action. Nonetheless, it is a unique and original well-crafted science fiction film. Even when ignoring the class propaganda, it is a very fine piece of cinema. 8.3 out of 10 

The Wolverine Review

The Wolverine Review
Director : James Mangold 

Cast Headliner: Hugh Jackman

Original Release Date: July 26th, 2013

Seen: Early August 2013
         Within the X-Men franchise, there is no one who can compete with Wolverine played by Hugh Jackman. He’s a comic book fan and audience favorite, and one of the main centers of focus in the series.  It makes since that he would get a spinoff of his own, and in 2009 there was in “X-Men: Origins Wolverine”. That was a controversial film, between its mediocrity and plot flaws and ruining the adaptation of some comic characters. Luckily, this film “The Wolverine”, is a vast improvement and one of the best of the series.
            This actually (and for the best) takes places after the third X-men film, which makes it all new material for the timeline. Wolverine aka Logan is back to his old wandering ways in Canada, and is still stricken with grief and haunted by visions of his former lover Jean Grey/Phoenix (Famke Janssen back in a surprising amount of new material). It is definitely nice to see these two old cast members again, and interesting to see how it has this affects his psyche.   He is soon found by a mysterious Japanese warrior and mutant named Yukio( Rila Fukushima).  She is employed by a Mr.Yashida(Hiroyuki Sanada) , who wants to thank Wolverine ,in person in Tokyo, for saving his life during the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in World War 2.  Logan begrudgingly follows, and he is greeted with a twisted world of danger.
            The greatest aspect of this film is that it is set in Japan. Previous installments have sort of blended together, with similar locales and characters. Aside from Wolverine, everyone else in the film is a new character. An effort is really made to create an authentic atmosphere, with Asian cast members and beautiful cinematography.
            The careful directing hand of James Mangold is evident here, with some great angles and intense camera in fight scenes. A problem which plagued “Origins” was bad quality CGI and effects compared to films in its era, but here everything is top notch.  From the atomic bomb drop in Nagasaki to the Silver Samurai mech suit in the end, everything is very believable. Never before has Wolverine’s claws shone with so much sheen.
             Besides the many great and unique fight scenes (Logan vs Yakuza! Logan vs Ninjas!), there’s heart at this story. Wolverine has to deal with where his life is going, and what it means to be immortal. Some astonishingly good dialogue is here, and also some decent romance with Mariko Yashida(Tao Okamoto)  of whom the antagonists are targeting. Yukio deserves special mention as her role of wisecracking sidekick.   So far this all may make it seem like a Yakuza or martial arts film, but it doesn’t forget that it’s a part of the X-Men franchise.
            Wolverine is awesome and nearly unstoppable in his claw slashing and healing abilities, but he has a match in Viper played Sveltana Khodchenkova.  This villain is not only the other white cast member but also has formidable combat abilities. I would say that besides the fights against the Yakuza, the final sequence involving her, Logan, the “Silver Samurai”, and others is cool and classic X-Men in vibe.
            The Wolverine is both an excellent classic X-Men movie, and also a successful experiment. Looked at as a X-Men movie, it’s a look at what happens with Logan’s (and in a slight way, Jean’s) life after the finale that was X3. Yet also, it deals barely with mutants and super powers and instead is a tale of Japanese crime drama. The classic sequel film which spices things up by making things nuanced.   This makes it a great watch, and a sign of good things to come. 8.15 out of 10