We pick up with Cinemablend’s Eric Eisenberg for a summer movie blowout. Part 1 is here.
Note: There are very minor spoilers for Iron Man 2 discussed, if you haven’t seen that yet feel free to skip down to the picture of Terrence Howard.
TFTB: Before we jump into this summer’s slate of blockbusters, I want to spend a minute on Iron Man 2 and Robin Hood for anyone who hasn’t seen those yet. I’ll start with Robin Hood actually. Why would anyone decide that making a prequel that excludes all the good stuff is at all interesting? I’m truly at a loss.
Eric: The tragedy of it is that it appears to be an attempt at creativity that just got out of hand. The Robin Hood story has been told a thousand times and I understand Ridley Scott not wanting to tell it again, but it doesn’t work if you make it as slow as molasses.
TFTB: I was so much more interested when this story was Nottingham and they were focusing on the Sheriff’s perspective. It’s the same type of ego-driven star rewrites that plagued Terminator: Salvation. Still, I suppose they do deserve some points for scope of vision if not execution.
Eric: Agreed, particularly with Russell Crowe in both roles. It would be interesting to map a timeline of where that movie went wrong. I just hope it doesn’t discourage studios or other writers to be creative. There is just way too much “same” in movies these days. I still hold the Disney movie in high regard though.
TFTB: Speaking of, what is your opinion on Iron Man 2, and particularly the criticisms that it sacrificed story in favor of setting up its larger Avengers storyline.
Eric: It’s weird to say, but I feel as though I have a bias in favor of the Avengers stuff. Most people went to go see Iron Man 2 to see just that: more Iron Man, but I went in to watch it as a bridge to the bigger picture and I think most comic fans/regular Marvel movie-goers are doing the same thing. I can totally understand the criticism.
TFTB: I think that’s the biggest problem. If you’re selling it as Tony Stark: Bigger, Badder and Uncut, then that’s what people want to see. From a personal level, I was able to appreciate a lot of the subtler touches they put in expanding the film’s larger universe, but as a stand-alone film the product that was on screen did suffer from those issues, particularly in the first half.
Eric: What they are doing is unprecedented in film, and it needs to be done. I also don’t think that the series has done itself any favors by sticking the fun stuff at the end of the credits. There were plenty of people I talked to in the theater that still had no idea that Samuel L. Jackson was in the first movie, so when he showed up, I would bet that thousands of people went “huh?”. This includes people who own the film on DVD mind you, but there really is no remedy for that unless they start putting it in the promotional materials.
TFTB: It’s just interesting that these films have done so much towards making comic books accessible to a larger public, but at the same time, the divisions in some ways are stronger than ever.
Eric: Exactly. Marvel knows its key audience, but doesn’t seem to know the people it needs to reach out to. Iron Man 2 is a lot more enjoyable if you are willing to put the time in. There’s only so many times that I can explain what a Skrull is.
TFTB: So that explains why War Machine looked different in this one!
TFTB: Got to be.
Eric: Congrats, you just lost a huge chunk of your audience.
TFTB: Well that seemed to be more of a problem for Kick-Ass.
Eric: I still don’t understand what happened with Kick-Ass, and I don’t think I ever will.
TFTB: Just looking at this summer, there seem to be a lot of hit or miss projects this year.
Eric: This may put you off, but I think I have to put Inception in that category. I love Christopher Nolan’s films to death, but is everyone going to get that movie?
TFTB: I can’t disagree because I still couldn’t tell you what that movie is about, and I’m not sure I’ll be able to after it’s over, but I have faith in Nolan that it will be a great film even if it doesn’t live up to expectations financially.
Eric: And that comes even after the trailer that supposedly told us what it is about. They just need to put the words “dark” and “knight” in each tv trailer about 70 times then maybe he can get people hooked.
TFTB: You mean like The Karate Kid? They’re just short of dragging Ralph Macchio out to China and letting him get kicked in the face by Jaden Smith.
Eric: I just hate the idea of Jackie Chan getting old; and I want a Billy Zabka cameo.
TFTB: That’s a must, that and cheesy 80s montage music.
Eric: That’s actually a nice segue into my true feelings about the film. You know an 80s movie when you see it, and The Karate Kid is most certainly an 80s movie, and that is a huge part of its charm. I don’t get any charm out of the new movie.
TFTB: And what about The A-Team? Read more…
After a decade of big-budget superhero films and all the clichés that come with them, Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Kick-Ass gives its audience as smart and entertaining a look at the genre as you can ask for. Embracing, and even reveling in its over-the-top elements, the film manages to ground itself with a strong and often hilarious character-driven narrative that gives the film its heart. While it falls short of perfection, it succeeds as an outstanding, satirical, action-romp in a way that no film like it has done before.
Vaughn creates a world that –particularly in the first third of the film– truly feels genuine despite being surrounded by the ridiculous. Relative newcomer Aaron Johnson is surprisingly effective in the lead role as Dave Lizewski, your prototypical nebbish high school nerd. Encouraged by a love of comics, Lizewski is compelled to see what it would be like to become a real masked crime fighter. The scenes with Johnson beginning his transformation into a hero are intentionally referential to the origin stories from Spider-Man and Batman Begins, but are so effective you can see why the actor has already been offered roles in more conventional hero films. As his crime-fighting as scuba suit wearing Kick-Ass goes viral, Lizewski runs into the father-daughter duo Big Daddy (Nic Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) who bring their own delightful flair to vigilante justice.
As good as Johnson is in the film, every single scene with Cage and Moretz is simply genius. It is the absurd yet heart-warming relationship between the two that really sets the tone for the movie. There has been some confusion about what Kick-Ass is trying to be as a movie, but you only need watch the interactions between these two to realize Vaughn went for the absolute ridiculous while filling in the edges with just enough reality to keep the audience. Cage, enjoying a career resurgence after last year’s Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, channels his best Adam West as Big Daddy, who’s costume is an intended call back to Batman’s trademark appearance. It is a character who should never work in a mainstream film, but does thanks to an inspired performance. The same could be said for Hit-Girl as Chloe Moretz absolutely nails it. The 12-year old rising star was a scene stealer in the superb (500) Days of Summer, but she completely runs away with this film.
This is the point in the review where I’m supposed to wring my hands about a 12-year old girl killing people on screen and dropping profanity, but you can probably surmise I had less of a problem with it than Roger Ebert. Maybe it’s youthful indiscretion, a liberal temperament or 14 years of South Park, but a middle schooler with a potty mouth isn’t enough to offend me or I suspect much of the film’s intended audience. Both the (somewhat overstated) violence and vulgarity flow from the plot and are respectful of the character arc you’re encouraged to follow her on. Viewed in the context of the film, her actions add to the tone of the story, and more importantly the performance by Moretz is one of the highlights of the year thus far.
Visually, Matthew Vaughn crafts a gorgeous looking film that at once looks different than almost anything else around and yet familiar enough to make the audience feel at home. All of the leads, including Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Mark Strong take to their characters with an enthusiasm that makes the film a joy to watch. Succeeding where the Watchmen film couldn’t, Kick-Ass is an unrepentant great time at the movies, and simply a wonderfully made film.