Saturday, April 17, 2010

Kick-Ass

Directed by Matthew Vaughn. Adapted from the graphic novel. Released 2010. Rated R.



Honor, Courage, Maturity, Idealism, Love, and the importance of Fatherhood: these are the unspoken key-words in of Kick-Ass. Another list of its contents might be gratuitous Stylized Violence, an abundance of Teen Sex, a contradictory Disregard for Life, and a lot of Heart. Or laughs. I probably laughed more. Yeah, definitely a laughing movie.

And, Oh! The things we laughed at! I’ve been entertained, or awed, by senseless violence before, Watchmen and any number of Tarantino movies come to mind, but to say I’ve been delighted by violence before—well, that’s just something I haven’t said until now. I was disturbed to be delighted by a thirteen year old girl playing an eleven year old and killing mobsters in the most gangster-ninja ways I’ve ever seen. I’m also a little disturbed to have to mention my infatuation with the youngest actresses in two reviews in a month. American directors must be learning something from the Chinese Olympic coaches, and I’m all for it.



Actually, I’m a little torn. The first list of Kick-Ass’ virtues carry out the best themes of the movie, but the follow-ups on each are less than clear. Let’s review--
Kick-Ass is the story of high-school student nobody, Dave Lizewski, in the mean streets of New York, tackling crime as a homemade superhero. Acting on principles born of comic books, he inspires the city via YouTube and Myspace. This makes him the most up to date hero yet. Of course, things get out of hand. It’s a movie after all. Hilariously, his alter-ego includes confusion on sexual orientation, but that should be the least of his worries as the mobsters he faces get badder and badder.

What we have to deal with is the psychological cost of all of these choices. Is it worth it to be inspiring and effective if it also means to be as ruthless as the bad guys? This question is barely addressed by the characters, but it stares the audience in the face more than once. You’d think a movie based on comic book morals would address this age-old question. Maybe that’s why it didn’t, but it felt like the movie transitioned from a story about courage to simply a story about power. We never question the characters with power; we are simply impressed by it. Even the bad guys have enough charming moments that we only root for the good guys because they seem to care more about each other.

Now, the movie does briefly give a reason for why it abandons its high ideals. Without revealing too much, our hero discovers something that is more valuable to him than simply following his dreams. It’s a bold message and an interesting one in a genre that mostly values na├»ve idealism and dream-following supremely. However, Kick-Ass only mentions it in passing and is swallowed up in more questionable themes.

All in all, it was a very fun movie to watch. If it wasn’t for the unnecessary sexuality that could’ve been replaced with more superhero fun, and the moral basis it abandoned, I’d give it 4 stars. As is, it’s probably just a 2.5. But we don’t need to look at it as a movie that loses points for being shallow; we can look at it as a movie that murders its way to our hearts.



The 'R' is well deserved, so don't bring your kids. That is so obnoxious.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

How to Train Your Dragon

Directed by Dean DeBlois and Chris Sanders. Adapted by Cressida Cowell and Dean DeBlois from the novel How to Train Your Dragon by Cressida Cowell. Released 2010. Rated PG.

If Norse Vikings speaking in Scottish accents is a sin then I will be sure to wear my tartan to hell. But who can blame DeBlois or Sanders for making this decision? Vikings just look like Scotsmen. On top of this, the Vikings had what Scotsmen are always trying to get: Their Freedom!



Oh, and they have one other thing: the most realistic cartoon dragons you’ll ever see. How to Train Your Dragon was one of the best looking animations I have ever seen. On the people, you’ll spend most of your time looking at hair and clothes. The textures are tangible. On the dragons, it goes much deeper.

You know how babies will pick up anything they see and try to eat it? Or have you ever seen something and just wanted to touch it? I was resisting the urge this entire movie. The dragons looked like layered scales and muscle. Their scaly skin stretched, scrunched, and folded like real reptiles. I wished my pet turtle was still alive so I could name him Toothless, after the leading dragon. But my turtle would fit the name better, for reasons you’ll see in the movie.

How to Train Your Dragon is a contemporary take on romanticized Viking life. “It snows nine months of the year and hails the other three. All the food that grows here is tough and tasteless. The people, more so,” says the sarcastic hero of the story, Hiccup. He happens to be the skinniest, least war-like Viking that has ever lived. His dad happens to be the opposite, and the Chief. Neither of them is very impressed with our hero when occasional dragon outbreaks occur and the only thing Hiccup can do is help the gimpy weapon smith. But when Hiccup secretly befriends a rare and dangerous dragon his opinions change.

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It may not be the most original story line, it may not even resemble the novel it’s based off of, but if you don’t enjoy the plot then you must not have liked E.T. and in my book, that lands you in the same fiery hole as the Pagan Scots.

The movie deals with a vast array of themes starting humanism, flirting with pacifism, dwelling on familial acceptance and then thinking twice, following in Dreamworks’ pattern of producing higher level family entertainment (ignoring Madagascar). If our hero isn’t as bloodthirsty as his neighbors are, don’t think that Greenpeace made it, either. Action is very present and when its not, sarcastic and clever characters are. The audience, at any age, shouldn't be bored.

I didn’t see this movie in 3-D. Alice in Wonderland and Up had scarred me. I regretted my decision the entire movie. The parts that were obviously 3-D would have been really cool and the parts that weren’t were so crisp that I don’t think 3-D would’ve ruined it.

Basically, this is a fantastic movie that everyone on your phone list would enjoy. Rated PG because it's just too good to be restrained by just one letter.