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Entries in Chloe Moretz (4)

Friday
Aug162013

Kick-Ass 2

While far from perfect, and certainly not as good as some fanboys claimed it to be, 2010’s “Kick-Ass” was a welcome addition to a cinematic landscape that was just beginning its superhero boom, arguably brought on by the success of “Iron Man” two years prior. The film took the superhero tropes we had come to know and mocked them, spoofing the genre while simultaneously creating a self-parody; a “Scream” for superheroes. Although inconsistent in that parody, it was nevertheless charming and funny enough to make the movie an easily watchable affair. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for “Kick-Ass 2.” The parody is thin, if not non-existent, the humor falls flat and the drama is inflated to an unmerciful degree. If you’re a big fan of the first movie, prepare to be disappointed here.

Taking place sometime after the events of the first movie, superheroes have become all the rage. The streets are littered with self-proclaimed heroes who, in reality, don’t do much of anything, much less stop evildoers. Once again feeling the need to take action, Dave Lizewski, also known as Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johson) returns to the streets. It’s there he meets Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) who introduces him to a new league of superheroes forming an Avengers-esque team. There’s Insect Man (Robert Emms), Night Bitch (Lindy Booth), their leader, Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), and even Dave’s old friend, Marty, now known as Battle Guy (Clark Duke). Their formation couldn’t come at a better time because a league of supervillains is also forming. They’re led by Kick-Ass’s nemesis, Chris D’Amico, who now calls himself The Motherfucker (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Even worse, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) has vowed to her new guardian that she would stop putting herself in danger and is unable to help Kick-Ass and his team.

The thing about the superhero genre, especially after all these consecutive years of watching our movie theaters get overrun by them, is that they practically parody themselves at this point. Look at this summer’s “Iron Man 3” as an example, particularly in the way (spoiler alert!) that it handled one of its main antagonists, The Mandarin, as portrayed by Ben Kingsley. It took this mysterious figure, one that threatened death and destruction and was feared around the world and deconstructed him into a joke, and a quite effective one at that (though I’m sure some comic fans will disagree). Like any good parody, it took our expectation of who and what a superhero villain should be and turned it on its head. For “Kick-Ass 2” to remain relevant, it needed to do something vastly different.

And it does, though the decided emphasis is misguided at best and downright disastrous at worst. Surprisingly, this sequel takes a drastic turn from the general goofiness of the original film and ratchets up the drama. While not necessarily a bad thing in theory, the drama was the first film’s primary downfall. Upon my initial viewing, I thought it was because it simply didn’t gel well with the over-the-top antics of the scenes those brief dramatic moments were wedged in between, but if this movie is any indication, it’s simply because it’s just not done well, no doubt enhanced by director Jeff Wadlow’s inexperience with such matters (and whose only other feature length efforts are “Cry_Wolf” and “Never Back Down,” hardly an impressive pedigree).

Whereas the drama in “Kick-Ass” merely bogged down a bit of the fun, the drama hear bogs down the entire movie. If it’s not the embarrassing “Mean Girls”-esque subplot where Hit Girl is trying to fit in at school as a normal teenager, it’s heavy handed dialogue and ridiculous slow motion shots (including the obligatory “phone dropping to the floor after receiving bad news” shot). However, none of it is done in jest, rarely acknowledging its self-aware undercurrents that were so prevalent in its predecessor. The only person who seems to understand the absurdity of the movie he’s in is Mintz-Plasse as The Motherfucker, who, despite an overall darker character turn, transitions well from the previous movie, bringing what little fun he can to a movie that is anything but.

It would be unfair to place blame on the other actors, though. Carrey, in particular, is fantastic as Colonel Stars and Stripes while the rest of the cast similarly does what is called for. The problem lies in the screenplay, which slaps them in far-too-dark, overly emotional nonsense. While some clever moments remain intact, the bulk of the film fails to elicit the excitement, fun or humor of what came before. The action is serviceable, but nowhere near as stylish, the laughs are few and far between and the story lacks polish—loose ends are left unresolved and recognizable characters from the last installment show up briefly for a line or two before disappearing, never to be heard from or mentioned again. “Kick-Ass 2” had the potential to be bigger and better, to take the solid foundation of “Kick-Ass” and make it something special, but it fails on nearly all fronts.

Kick-Ass 2 receives 1.5/5

Friday
May112012

Dark Shadows

At this point, the result of a collaboration between Tim Burton and Johnny Depp isn’t so much an acquired taste as it is one that you’ve already come to enjoy, but has a sour aftertaste. Many would argue that after a string of solid movies for the duo, including Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sleepy Hollow, they’ve hit a lull and in recent years have been unable to recapture the magic that existed so long ago. I would argue, however, that they’re still as wonderful as ever. Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street should have been nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars, Corpse Bride was a wonderfully macabre, but ultimately satisfying adventure into the abyss of death and Alice in Wonderland, though certainly flawed, was a quirky and visually interesting take on the classic story. Only once with the ill advised Charlie and the Chocolate Factory have they failed to entertain. Their latest collaboration, an adaptation of the campy soap opera from the 60s titled Dark Shadows, is a minor entry in both of their mostly impressive careers, but it’s funny, fun, different and it boasts some terrific performances.

Dark Shadows is set in the 18th century and follows a young Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp) as he and his family sail off to America. Once there, he becomes somewhat of a playboy, living with untold riches and striking up a physical relationship with Angelique (Eva Green), a worker in the home he so affectionately calls Collinwood Manor. However, a physical relationship is all he’s interested in because his love belongs to someone else. This breaks Angelique’s heart, which is something Barnabas may have tried to avoid had he known she was a witch, so she puts a curse on him that kills his entire family, including the woman he loves, and turns him into a vampire. With the help of the townsfolk, she eventually captures him, places him in a chained up coffin and buries him in the ground to live in darkness for all eternity. Two hundred years later, a construction crew stumbles onto his grave and accidentally lets him out, so he makes his way back to Collinwood Manor to meet the newest members of his family, including Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer), her daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), her brother Roger (Jonny Lee Miller), his son David (Gulliver McGrath) and their live-in psychiatrist Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter). It’s not too long before Angelique hears of Barnabas’ escape, so she sets out to either win him over or destroy him for good.

Dark Shadows coasts by on a one joke premise: that an 18th century man has stumbled into a 20th century world that he doesn’t understand. Frankly, it’s a story that could have been told in any genre and without the fantasy/horror elements, of which seem to exist solely to create a somewhat believable way to make the set up happen. Such arbitraries hardly matter, however, when you have actors who are up to the task of taking an already witty script and making it even more enjoyable. Depp brings his A-game, which he always does to a Tim Burton production, and it’s endlessly entertaining to watch his 18th century look, mannerisms and rhetoric contrast with a time when hippies ruled and metal was emerging (which leads to a great cameo by one of the all time metal greats, Alice Cooper). Because he has laid in darkness for 200 years, Barnabas has not seen the world progress and still holds onto archaic trains of thought, most humorously when he attributes everything he doesn’t understand to Satan. Even his notion of sexuality is stuck in the past; he covets women based on their child bearing hips rather than modern characteristics men typically look for.

Dark Shadows is not a particularly serious movie, as one should be able to tell by now. Despite its (sometimes downplayed) haunting, gothic visual style that Burton has an affinity for, there are more laughs than anything else, a notion that most viewers would find hard to argue with after the montage set to The Carpenter’s “Top of the World.” It’s not the most polished film Burton has ever done and sports some noticeably amateurish flaws, including one particular shot where the eyelines don’t match up, but it’s nevertheless a surprising delight. Its trailers were worthy of groans, but what doesn’t work in short form works wonderfully in context, similar to 2009’s surprise hit, The Blind Side. It’s not the most subtle film in the world (the connection between one of the characters and Barnabas’ deceased love is plainly obvious), but Dark Shadows is goofy in all the right ways.

Dark Shadows receives 3.5/5

Friday
Oct012010

Let Me In

Two years ago, two movies were released that treaded on similar ground. Twilight was one of them. That movie, as dopey as it was, explored a relationship between a human and a vampire and it was a smash hit. It became a cultural phenomenon and, unfortunately, will soon be heading into the fourth movie in the franchise. The other film, also about a human/vampire relationship, was a small Swedish picture called Let the Right One In. It flew under the radar and was criminally overlooked in the wake of all the Twilight hysteria. Now that fantastic little picture has been remade into a fantastic big one. Now getting the recognition it deserves in American form (due to the public’s idiotic lack of interest in reading subtitles), the newly titled Let Me In never fails to amaze.

The story is set in the cold months of 1983 in New Mexico. The terrific Kodi Smit-McPhee, who dazzled in one of last year’s best pictures, The Road, plays Owen, a kid who spends most of his days by himself. He has no friends and is bullied in school by Kenny, played by Dylan Minnette, who taunts him daily, calling him a “little girl” and asking if he’s scared. The truth is Owen is scared, though he fantasizes about taking his revenge on Kenny, stabbing at the air and pretending his body is taking the sharp end of his knife. It isn’t until his new neighbor arrives and she insists he stand up for himself that he starts to take control. The problem, however, is that the new girl, Abby, played by the wonderful Chloe Moretz, is a vampire and needs blood to survive. Although she tells him they can’t be friends, a friendship blossoms anyway as he learns about her secret.

In another example of misleading advertising (which seems to be happening a lot these days), Let Me In is not the experience most moviegoers will be expecting. This is not a horror movie, despite the horror elements. It’s a slow building, tender love story about two people, one a lonely child who takes comfort in finally having a friend and the other an ageless vampire who, similarly, has remained friendless throughout her existence. They need each other and, like any relationship, they love each other unconditionally, despite their differences.

While Let Me In can’t really be described as anything that works on a realistic, human level, it deftly explores its characters and that is what makes it so special. It doesn’t relate to its audience, but it makes us care about the characters that exist within the story. Moretz in particular does a wonderful job of keeping us ingrained with what we’re seeing. At one point in the movie, Owen asks Abby to be his girlfriend, but, as bad as she’d like to, she knows she can’t. She tells him she’s not a girl. “I’m nothing,” she says. She wants to be normal, but that isn’t possible and it will keep her from ever forging a lasting bond with anybody.

In its own dark, macabre way, Let Me In is quite beautiful. Director Matt Reeves, the man behind Cloverfield, does a masterful job creating this movie. The grim cinematography and the eerily effective lighting help establish a moody, atmospheric and stylish tale. His attention to detail and unique camera trickery, as evidenced by an astonishing one take, in-the-car crash, is a sight to behold.

If there is one criticism I can levy towards Let Me In, it’s that it doesn’t do enough to differentiate itself from Let the Right One In. It starts the same, it ends the same and the middle only has minor differences. If you aren’t going to put your own unique stamp on the story, why bother? Luckily, the redundancy to its source material is at least somewhat offset by Michael Giacchino’s brilliant score that pounds loudly to build fear and tension, but also slows down when necessary to help portray the moving, passionate friendship blossoming onscreen.

Let Me In will undoubtedly gain more exposure simply due to the fact that the characters speak English, but it’s hard to say if it is better than Let the Right One In. Picking the superior one is like picking an orange. One may be a bit juicier than the other, but they’re both quite tasty.

Let Me In receives 4.5/5

Friday
Apr162010

Kick Ass

Here we are. The movie that will have comic book lovers the world over joining in a collective nerdgasm. Kick Ass, the popular novel from the mind behind Wanted, is hitting the big screen and the geeks of the world are more eager to see it than a sex tape between Jessica Biel and Jessica Alba. I'm one of those geeks. After reading the comics it is based on (which a friend so graciously lent to me), I was hyped for the movie. The comic was amazing; well written, well drawn, violent, hilarious and fun. It was everything I wanted a comic book called Kick Ass to be. The movie, while still a rollicking good time, lacks the wit and style of its source material.

The movie follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a mild mannered high school outcast. He and his friends, played by Clark Duke and Evan Peters, are comic book nerds. Like many similar to them, they dream of fighting crime in extravagant outfits, leaping from rooftop to rooftop in pursuit of an evildoer, standing up for justice and integrity in a world spiraling to hell. The difference is that Dave takes that to heart. He's sick of being a nobody. He's an outcast, a guy who can't get a girlfriend to save his life, much less his crush Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca), so he decides to strap on a scuba suit he buys online and attempt to make his city a better place through his new persona, Kick Ass. But this is the real world, not a comic book, and he soon finds himself lying in the middle of the road beaten, bloody and bruised with a knife wound to the stomach. After his recovery, and despite his better judgment, he returns to the streets where he meets Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), a father/daughter superhero team who have been working their ranks through the local mafia, eliminating them all in the hopes of eventually getting to the head honcho, Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong). In fear of these superheroes, Frank enlists the help of his son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), a fellow comic book nerd, to disguise himself as a new hero, Red Mist, and lure the trio into a trap where he can finish them off once and for all.

I'm no comic book connoisseur, I admit. I couldn't tell you why one works and another one doesn't. I'm not aware of the inner workings that go into the construction of one of these tales. All I can tell you is how I perceive it and I loved the Kick Ass comic book. I couldn't put it down. I loved the gruesome violence, the spot on humor and the interesting narrative. I hoped for the movie to excite me in the same ways and it did, but not as consistently.

For what I assume are practical purposes, the violence isn't nearly as abundant, the humor is hit and miss and the interesting narrative from the comic is changed enough that it didn't hold the same appeal. I found more emotional connection between drawings on a page than I did the live action film.

Although some of the humor is forced, it can be funny, but that's why I didn't care. It doesn't do a good job of balancing its comedy with its more dramatic moments and when a major character bit the dust, I could only stare blankly at the screen wondering if I was supposed feel something. Consider the fact that jokes aren't only thrown in before and after this scene, but during it and you start to wonder why the filmmakers tried to create any drama at all.

Besides, it's called Kick Ass. Just as nobody watched Zombie Strippers for the choreography, nobody will watch Kick Ass for the drama. Luckily, the action scenes are top notch. They're wild, crazy, over the top and damn fun. Though toned down from the comic, this things gets bloody and watching an 11 year old girl do most of the killing makes things even crazier.

At times, the film gives off a Scream type of vibe by parodying the genre it is portraying. But whereas Scream was steady in its self-spoof, Kick Ass fluctuates. It's amusingly self-deprecating at first, but then drops that angle only to pick it up again later, and so on. It's smart at times, but it's not consistent and you'll quickly see how jumbled it can be.

But you know what? This is still a great time at the movies. Nicolas Cage gives his best performance in years and had me laughing all the way down to my toes, Chloe Moretz is brilliant as the adorable little girl that can put a bullet through your head before you even realize she's packing and its excessive nature is a welcome treat in a cinema world that is getting increasingly picked on by past generation curmudgeons who are intent on finding something they can complain about. Kick Ass looks at those people and flips them the bird, welcoming their hatred.

I like that.

Kick Ass receives 3.5/5