Kick-Ass (2010)

R, 117 minutes, Crime

StarringAaron Taylor-JohnsonChloe Grace MoretzMark StrongNicolas CageChristopher Mintz-Plasse

We’ve all wanted to stand up for something. We see the kids getting bullied, friends go through hardships, and jerks cut us off on the freeway, but have we ever really put ourselves in the position to seek justice? Or perhaps to enact our own version of justice…?

Kick-Ass plays off of a bizarre trend (okay, so maybe it’s just me that thinks it’s bizarre) where average citizens dawn masks and capes in order to fight crime. No, I mean it. Real people. Like, this is a thing that actually happens. Except, of course, our story takes the reality of the trend and mashes it with the glitz and glam of comic books. What comic book nerd hasn’t thought of running around stopping purse snatchers and metallic supervillains who have tapped into the power of the Dark Arts?

I just wanted to find Mr. Bitey!!!

Meet Dave (Taylor-Johnson), better known in this case as Kick-Ass.  Dave gets the idea to go vigilante from the pages of his favorite comics because he keeps getting robbed. When his first attempt at being a superhero doesn’t go so well, he gains the attention of other like-minded individuals. Before he knows it, Kick-Ass becomes embroiled in a war against a drug lord that turns out to be more than he can handle.

Although this movie plays off comic panels with familiar notations like “Meanwhile…” and “Elsewhere…” the stand out aspect is actually the color-coding of the main cast. When on screen, each hero pops against the background thus gaining territory over the frame. The bright colors are reminiscent of the drawn inspirations, because let’s face it–what superhero looks good on paper without bright colors? Don’t answer that…

Hey, look! It’s Batman! Wait, why does he have a sniper rifle and a Fu Manchu?

On the controversial side, this flick does a grandiose job of making cute, little Mindy/Danger Girl (Moretz) into a stabbing, swearing, slicing, killing machine. Moretz filmed this movie when she was still about 12 or 13. Her age and her acting caused some people to fret as they didn’t think she should be depicted as dropping f-bombs and hacking people to bits. Ah, Hollywood…

Overall this title isn’t going to outshine the rest of the Marvel line-up. It isn’t even going to involve the rest of the Marvel line-up. It plays outside of the rules by being a superhero movie that isn’t technically a superhero movie. It’s coarse and it’s unfair. It’s introspective and it’s hormonal. It’s… mortal. It’s more just a movie for the rest of us.

Rating: Watch it.

Watch: Offbeat superhero film about people who aren’t superheros.
Don’t watch: Violence, gore, and free-flowing swearing (mostly involving a 13 year-old girl).


Deathtrap (1982)

PG (should be PG-13), 116 minutes, Thriller

StarringMichael CaineChristopher ReeveDyan CannonIrene WorthHenry Jones

Recently I went to the theater. The stage and intermission kind. It had been a while, but I still end up seeing live performances about once a year. It’s a nice experience that leaves an impression of being “cultured.” Honestly, it just tends to make for a great date night.

In walks Deathtrap: a one stage, two act, five player set. I’m given the unique perspective of watching it in the round. Each audience member gets a different view of the action as they surround the stage. Quite cool, in my opinion. I go home with mixed feelings about the performance, but I ask myself: If it was set in the late ’70s, does that mean it was written then? First search result: Deathtrap–the movie. The library has it. Screw it: I’m watchin’ it.

Oh look! A cliche room of medieval weaponry!

While the movie is not the original incarnation, it certainly is the most commercial. Without giving too much away I can tell you that the story involves two people who set out to murder a third… and that’s about all I can say. There would really be no point in describing more as it would 1) dissolve the thriller aspect of the story and 2) GIVE EVERYTHING AWAY. No point in discovering a movie if you already know how it ends, right? That being said, I’ll try to continue lightly…

It is an interesting premise having such a limited cast and play area. In an age of all-star ensembles where they appear to have to stretch casting budgets just to pack in another well-known name, having only five (well, focusing on five) people on one (well, mostly on one) set is a stark difference. That’s where the charm of this film comes into play. Not only is the story limited to one set, two acts, and five players, but characters are working with the idea of writing a script that involves one set, two acts, and five players based around the experience they are going through. This creates an entire story based on treacherous introspection.

Hey, man? You alright? You’ve got, uh, a little something on your face.

The acting is fine and there’s little technical going on here. It’s really just a story-driven movie that perhaps climaxes too soon with one chaotic moment that is so charged the rest of the story turns into a lackluster game of cat and mouse until the second, although not as intense, climax that finishes off the story. It is interesting, though dated, but I don’t see this being for everyone, which would explain why I had never heard of the story in the first place.

Rating: Don’t bother.

Watch: The first climatic scene is fun.
Don’t watch: Guy-on-guy mouth-to-mouth.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)

Not Rated, 26 minutes, Crime

Starring: Boris Karloff

At one point in time someone got the brilliant idea to animate the successful and adored Dr. Seuss books. Unfortunately that time was full of tie dye and poor life choices. The animated specials slid out of the ’70s like a hot ashtray full of mud. They’re rough and I feel like they do a real disservice to the books they’re based on. And quite honestly I don’t think they’re the worth the prices they charge for the blasted things.

However, there is one short that has retained a lasting presence: How the Grinch Stole Christmas! No, not Carey, but Karloff. It’s a simple tale of a grumpy… er, Grinch who hates the noise and clamber a nearby village makes during Christmas. Deciding to steal the entire holiday, he burglarizes everything in sight. But when he returns home, he begins to have second thoughts.

I’m sure a good number of people are familiar with this, as they have been for several of the movies I’ve reviewed this Christmas season. Unlike the other animated Dr. Seuss shorts I’ve seen, I think this one is on the more entertaining end of the spectrum. Still, it somehow takes a half hour and makes it seemingly last an eternity. I really don’t understand that part…

The real holding power comes more from the performer rather than the performance. I feel the show is hindered by it’s lack of action and heavy use of recycled animation segments, but who doesn’t love Karloff’s unique voice? At an elderly age, the man still had screen presence even though his performance was only sound. He is the real reason I keep coming back. And come back I do. Every Christmas Eve I plunk down in front of the TV to watch and listen while I wrap my last minute gifts.

Rating: Watch it.

Watch: Because you know you’re going to anyway.
Don’t watch: Dang hippies.

Goodfellas (1990)

R, 146 minutes, Crime

Starring: Ray LiottaLorraine BraccoRobert De NiroJoe Pesci

Whatsa matta with me?  Hah?  Hah?  I haven’t seen no Goodfellas before?  What I am?  Stupid?  No, I hadn’t seen it, but it was on the list.  The List.  While half full of crime dramas that some might consider essential viewing for any film buff, the other half of The List displayed a set of random films that I’ve been meaning or pressured to watch.

So in walks Goodfellas–something else to cross of the list.  This movie follows the real-life story of Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) as he enters the mob.  Growing up, he’s an errand boy, but as he gets older he enters the drug running business.

As the years pass, the mob begins to weaken and Henry begins to find himself at odds with his family, his Family, and the cops.  Hooked on his own supply, his world spirals out of control until the mob reaches a breaking point with him.  Henry has to figure out how to survive quick otherwise he won’t live to see another day.

Growing up I always knew about this film.  It was hard not to since I’m huge fan of Animaniacs.  Seeing this movie, it was great getting to see the origins of the cartoon characters The Goodfeathers (though I suspect Bobby is a combination of multiple De Niro roles).   I also had to take into account the movie Black Mass.  It’s been a couple months since it was released, but Goodfellas felt so similar to Black Mass I had to keep reminding myself that Goodfellas came out first.

I’d say that I thought this movie was alright.  Not really good or bad, but somewhere in the middle.  The… I’ll call it “historical value” to this film helped keep me interested, but I’m not really into drug culture so I found myself hoping that Henry got his in the end.

For the average movie-goer, this may not be the type of picture they’d want to see.  For me, this film lacks a hook.  With most films that I like there is a certain something; a certain charm that makes me want to come back for a second helping.  This isn’t the case with Goodfellas.  Forget about it.

Rating: Watch it once

Watch: Because you like crime dramas.
Don’t watch: If you’re offended by drugs, violence, and/or constant swearing.

The Godfather: Part 1 (1972)

R, 175 minutes, Crime

Starring: Marlon BrandoAl PacinoRobert DuvallJames Caan

Previously I had mentioned that I wasn’t on a crime kick, yet I find my reserve list full of titles about the underworld and murder.  I guess you could say I’m a bit forced into it at this point.  Over the summer a plethora of coworkers began to berate with one single question: “How could you not have seen that?”  It wasn’t just one movie in particular, but a whole slew of familiar flicks that I had yet to feast my eyes on.

Not the first suggestion, but perhaps the most pressing, was The Godfather.  Today our story is about a little family in the drug running business.  When Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) is gunned down, his family decides to take revenge.  The ensuing mob war leaves a pile of corpses in its wake and it’s up to young Michael (Al Pacino) to protect his family.

While the entire series was insisted upon me, I thought I’d just start with the beginning.  I had seen bits and pieces before.  The parodies since its release have been endless and it would be difficult to say that the genre hasn’t been heavily influenced by this single film alone.  What we’re left with is one of the most–if not the most–iconic mob movies of all time.

…And I thought it was dreadfully boring.

I will give the movie this: It did not seem dated like other movies from its time.  I think having the story set in the late ’40s really helped get out that nasty ’70s stench and modern remastering took it up another notch.  But I could not get over the slow pace.  This movie is three hours long.  Having known the series was famous for its length, I do not feel as though I’ve missed out by skipping the other two.

I honestly expecting a lot more violence.  Gun battles in the street.  Houses catching fire.  Body parts being sent back and forth in the mail.  That should probably tell you how unfamiliar I am with the series.  Instead the violence comes as shocking incidents only after long pauses of gabbing.  This is not an action film in the slightest and for that I am sorely disappointed.

Someday someone might read this and think about what an idiot I am for not liking The Godfather.  Honestly, I’m okay with that.  In three hours I can watch two superior movies and not feel the least bit of regret.

Rating: Don’t bother.  (Sorry, not sorry)

Watch: If you already know what you’re getting into.
Don’t watch: If you haven’t got all day.