Category: Film

It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s a Potty-Mouthed 11 Year-Old Girl Slaughtering Criminals!

By , April 16, 2010

Kick-Ass gets the star billing, because this is a movie about someone without super powers (Dave Lizewski, a.k.a. Kick-Ass) donning a costume and embarking on a career as a super-hero, but a better name for Kick-Ass may very well have been Hit-Girl, for she truly steals the show. She, and her father/partner Big Daddy, are actual super-heroes inserted into a world in which they ostensibly don’t exist.

Kick-Ass

Kick-Ass saving the day as only he can.

As every previous film adaptation of a comic book has, in my eyes, fallen short of the comic, I went into this movie with mixed expectations, especially since, while I enjoyed the comic book, I didn’t *love* it the way many fans did. I didn’t expect anything amazing; what I saw was quite possibly the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen.

So much will be made of the violence, especially since much of it is being perpetrated by an 11-year-old actress, but to me, that’s beside the point. The movie got everything right that most other super-hero films get wrong. Take Iron Man— I enjoyed that film, and I found the portrayal of Tony Stark as a complex individual who is part alcoholic playboy and part torn humanitarian to be quite gripping. Had the movie been called Tony Stark it would have been a fine character study, but it had no place in a movie called Iron Man. In my mind, the ideal super-hero film is Die Hard with a guy in tights replacing Bruce Willis. Take a few minutes of screen time to introduce us to Peter Parker/Bruce Banner/Steve Rogers/Whoever, then pit him up against someone or something seemingly unbeatable. After about 90 minutes of epic battling, engineer an unexpected method of victory for the seemingly out-matched hero, then roll the credits.

Kick-Ass does exactly that, in spades. There are just enough civilian-identity shenanigans to flesh out the characters, and a couple genuinely tender scenes that never drift into the maudlin. The rest is Hit-Girl kicking ass, Kick-Ass futilely trying to keep up with her, and McLovin’ showing us what the well-to-do super-hero is driving this season.

Hit-Girl

Sure she’s only 11, but she can beat you up.

Don’t get me wrong– Kick-Ass is not populated by one-dimensional characters and stereotypes. You understand why Dave dons his costume, and when he wins the fight that launches him to fame, he does so in a way that is simultaneously heroic and believable. That scene more than any other illustrates why he ultimately is the star of a film that at times seems to focus far more on Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. He is in many ways the Jack Benny of the super-hero set– the guy in a costume surrounded by heros and villains, not grasping the full gravity of any of it, but somehow stumbling through to the final reel. By that time he has come to terms with what ought to be his mantra, with no power comes no responsibility, and he does what he ought to have done all along: get out of the way and let Hit-Girl go to town, while still managing to do a bit of day-saving of his own.

I don’t think I’m alone in my love of this film, or my belief that it is better than its source material. A row of ten über-geeks seated directly in front of us last night all left the theater proclaiming likewise, and I overheard many comments to the effect of “best movie ever,” “way better than the comic” as I exited the cinema. If I didn’t have tickets to see Hot Chip, I’d go see this again tonight; I’ll almost certainly be back in a theater this weekend to watch it once more.

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Crazier Than a Bag of &#^@ Angel Dust

By , January 16, 2009

Tonight I went to the movies, and saw an entertaining and powerful, film. It tells the story of a man who started with nothing, but went on to became a huge figure in his community, and then the world. He achieved great fame seemingly overnight, and did his part to change the world, before he was tragically gunned down. It reminded me of another such film I saw last month– Milk. I suppose tonight’s film could perhaps be called Chocolate Milk, but instead it is called Notorious, and tells the story of Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G., the greatest rapper of all-time. I saw it in South Central Los Angeles, hardly a place you’d expect to extol the praises of an East Coast hip hop legend, but it played to a packed house.

Peace out, Biggie. The world still misses you.

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12 Down, 8 to Go

By , November 21, 2004

The Castro Theater in San Francisco is in the midst of a week-long Godzilla Festival. Below is a collage I put together of the 20 films they’re showing. You’ll notice that not all of them involve Godzilla, but they’re all Toho Studio productions, and of the “guys in foam rubber suits smashing Tokyo” genre.

Now me, I just like to sit in a theater and eat popcorn and watch the movies and occasionally chuckle at the campiness, but some people take this way seriously. Nearly every one of the 12 I’ve seen so far has played to an almost-packed house. At least 600 to 700 people are showing up for these things. I didn’t expect that. I also didn’t expect the Godzilla Shopping Mall they have created in the upstairs lobby of the theater. Patrons are dropping small fortunes on posters, models, magazines, t-shirts and such.

To top it off, the theater is bringing in the old actors from the ’60s films to introduce the movie. They’ve got a translator up there and everything. The guy who played the villain in Mothra was there last night, as was the guy who wears the Godzilla suit. People were so excited to ask him questions, but I mean– all he did in the films was stomp around in a rubber costume. Who cares? Regardless, the films are fun, though Fizzy seems less than enthused than me.

Castro Theater Godzilla Poster

ALSO– Godzilla is getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame next week! They are coinciding it with the World Premiere of the 28th, and allegedly final, Godzilla film, Godzilla: Final Wars. I’ve seen the preview 12 times now, as they run it before each film. It looks a lot more high-tech than one would expect from a Godzilla film; sort of a less-slick looking Matrix sort of thing but with guys in monster suits added into the mix. It includes a scene where Godzilla kicks the ass of “Zilla,” which is what the Japanese call the monster in the American Godzilla with Matthew Broderick. Apparently he’s a Zilla, but not worthy of the God part. Oh, so I was saying– on November 29th Godzilla gets his star, and his new movie premieres at Grauman’s Chinese Theater. Who knew?

Today’s Question: What is your favorite Godzilla movie?

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Netflix is Ruining My Life

By , August 17, 2004

We signed up for Netflix, and it is a little bit overwhelming. As soon as you watch something and send it back, they send more, and the resulting sense of pressure to watch watch watch is getting to be too much for me. I don’t watch movies *that* often, but I feel like I won’t be getting my money’s worth if I don’t generate a quick turn-around time by watching and returning movies quickly. I now find myself trying to set aside two or three hours every day for movie watching, and what was once fun has now become a chore. Netflix is ruining my movie-watching experience!

Since all I do anymore is watch DVDs, my blog will come to reflect that lifestyle change; here are some quick bits about the movies we’ve received since joining. My apologies in advance for what I know will be sentence fragments and generally poor grammar.

Big Deal on Madonna Street – as of yet unwatched
Zoolander – as of yet unwatched
La Strada – as of yet unwatched

Okay, that was pretty boring, but those are the three I just received. Here are my nutshell reviews of the one’s I’ve watched and returned:

The Cooler – Has its ups and downs. A clever premise that ended up a so-so film.

Fallen – Good sci-fi/ noir mix, appropriately creepy, with wide appeal. I had seen it when it was new, and it held up to a repeat viewing

Take Care of My Cat – I’ve been playing excerpts from the soundtrack during cocktail hours for the past few years. Not much more to say. There is a cat. Dunno… Fizzy watched more than I did.

The Seventh Seal – It’s depth and scope is impossible to describe; sublimely beautiful, among the greatest films of all time. It’s one of my favorite movies, and I wanted to share it with Fizzy; she liked it.

Down by Law – Another of my favorite movies, ever, that I wanted to share with the gee eff. I think maybe this is more of a “guy” movie, but it is really good and transcends that.

Miller’s Crossing – The only Coen bros. film I had never seen, and a fantastic film, as expected. This time around they did a prohibition-era mob film. They sure have range, those bros.

The Producers – Something I’d always wanted to see– my parents always told me how much they loved this movie– it is funny.

Peter Pan – The new version, quite well done. Great for kids but enough adult overtones to make it work for all ages.

National Lampoon’s Van Wilder – After the 10th person said this movie was my life’s story I had to watch. It’s engrossing, and if you acquiesce to the film it’s a lot of fun

Bottle Rocket – Damn hilarious; no Rushmore, but almost a Royal Tenenbaums

Capturing the Friedmans – Pretty poor; left me wondering why anyone would care enough to make a movie about them. They certainly ham it up and never cease reminding us about how important and wonderful they all are.

To Kill a Mockingbird – A decent adaptation of one of my favorite books.

A Beautiful Mind – Predictable, but enjoyable to an extent. Very “Hollywood”

Adaptation – Excellent; unique and well-acted. Nick Cage played both roles impeccably, never over-stepping what was a very fine line between the believable and the hyperbolic.

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind – Everyone told me this was an amazing film, but I didn’t like it very much. It felt as though it tried for style over substance but lacked style, though it definitely has its moments.

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Spider-Man 2

By , June 30, 2004

I will begin this quasi-review by stating that I think Spider-man is an excellent film. I seldom see a movie in the theater more then once during its initial release, but I saw the first Spider-man three times. I don’t think I’d gone twice to see a film since O Brother, Where Art Thou?, and normally I tend to want to wait awhile before re-watching a movie, but I got really into Spider-man. Also, I super heart Sam Raimi. I’ve been a huge fan of his since I saw the Evil Dead movies, so I was excited when I heard he was directing the movie. Anyway, the point is– I really liked the first movie, so bear that in mind as I extol the virtues of its sequel.

Spider-Man 2

I like the new one even better than the first one! The story is engrossing, the characters are deeply developed, the villain is more intriguing, and the special effects are better. There is a scene in, on, and around a runaway subway train that has to be seen to be believed; it actually had me on the edge of my seat and breathless.

I promised my nephew and his friend that I would take them to see it Thursday (tomorrow), but then decided to see it at the midnight am showing late Tuesday/ early Wednesday morning. I was a little hesitant to do that, as I wasn’t sure I wanted to sit through it again with the kids, but I am kinda tempted to go again in between and make the viewing with the kids number three. It’s just that good.

I can’t wait for Thursday.

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Derrick’s Depth, or Kurt’s Poor English Skills?

By , May 12, 2004

Derrick: And he looked in my eyes and he said, “I don’t understand you.” Isn’t that amazing, that he saw how complex I am?

Mary: Maybe he just didn’t understand you.

Derrick: What do you mean?

Mary: You said he didn’t understand English very well. Maybe he just… didn’t understand you.

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Movies What That I Like

By , March 29, 2004

For no good reason I sat and listed the 85 films I like best of all the films I’ve seen.Then I pared the list down to 40. Then I ranked them. This is what I came up with:

01 The Seven Samurai
02 Pulp Fiction
03 North by Northwest
04 Trainspotting
05 The Lady Eve
06 The Sting
07 The Shawshank Redemption
08 The Philadelphia Story
09 The Hudsucker Proxy
10 O Brother, Where Art Thou?
11 Die Hard
12 Unforgiven
13 The Maltese Falcon
14 The Matrix
15 Jackie Brown
16 Gross Pointe Blank
17 Christmas in July
18 Predator
19 Ed Wood
20 The Seventh Seal
21 The City of Lost Children
22 Goodfellas
23 True Romance
24 Amélie
25 The Man Who Knew Too Much
26 Hail the Conquering Hero
27 Auntie Mame
28 Murder, My Sweet
29 Midnight Run
30 Double Indemnity
31 How to Steal a Million
32 Bringing Up Baby
33 Touch of Evil
34 Casablanca
35 A Day at the Races
36 Office Space
37 Rio Bravo
38 Fight Club
39 Gladiator
40 This Gun For Hire

I bet I forgot some good ones, but whatever. They are all movies what that I like.

Today’s Question: What are your favorite films?

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Fancy Pants

By , February 1, 2004

Last week I was finally able to find the film Fancy Pants at the video store. It had been missing for years, and someone either FINALLY returned it, or the store bought a new copy. Either way, there it was, so I grabbed it. My mom showed it to me when I was a child and I liked it, but I couldn’t remember too much about it. I wondered if it would still appeal to me, for now as an adult (more or less), both main stars, Bob Hope or Lucille Ball, are hit or miss with me.

Fancy Pants

My fears were quickly placated– I was laughing from the get go, and throughout the entire film. Fizzy watched it with me, and she enjoyed it, too. I haven’t seen many, but for what it’s worth, this is my favorite of Bob Hope’s films. Anyone out there who, like me before watching this, doesn’t think of him as a great comedic actor, needs to see this film just to make SURE you don’t like him. He plays an American actor impersonating a British butler impersonating British royalty, and has many great scenes, including his retelling of an encounter he had where his military outfit found itself in a position of “3 against 1000.” Truly hilarious, in the rapid-paced, fast-talking, clever dialogue format that has nearly disappeared from films of the modern era.

If you find yourself enjoying Bob Hope in Fancy Pants, I only know of one other film he made that I found extremely enjoyable– Bachelor in Paradise. Funny stuff, man.

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Less Realism, Please

By , January 20, 2004

Like most people, I enjoy watching movies. Unlike some, I especially enjoy films from the studio era of Hollywood. I definitely appreciate modern films as well, but there is something about the movies made in Hollywood prior to the mid-1960s or so that I find appealing. Part of the appeal lies in the black & white film, for it adds an additional layer of separation from reality to the film, but even the color films of that era are marvelous. They seem to have been purposely made to be less than realistic, in much the same way that reading a novel, while engrossing and enjoyable, is in no way mistakable for real-life. I appreciate that; the fades, the cuts, the edits, the dialogue, the cinematography– it all mixes into a larger-than-life, if not true-to-life, whole, and it draws me in as deeply as a modern film, can, albeit in an entirely different manner.

More than even realism, mainstream films today are built around the bottom line. Not that they weren’t always created to generate profit, but never to the exclusion of all else until recently. Since “Jaws,” it seems that with each passing year studios are concerned only with churning out films that will generate a massive opening weekend take at the box office, and then fade from sight in time for the next weekend’s offering. It’s not as important that a film be enjoyable as it is that it can be promoted in a manner that will attract large crowds to its premiere. Big stars, ample action, and a catchy soundtrack are more important than plot or dialogue. I have even noticed that in recent years coming attractions for films invariably include a list of the artists featured on the soundtrack– information unnecessary other than to generate extra revenue from a film.

I’ve been uninspired to write lately, as well as busy with family matters, but in some upcoming posts I’ll throw out some movies that I think are particularly wonderful. Some of them may not be available on DVD, but many are out in the VHS format and available for rental to any luddites still sporting a VCR. Hopefully some of my regular readers (if any are still with me after such an extended period of virtual inactivity) will be inspired to go out and rent a film you’d otherwise never have heard about, and possibly even enjoy it.

Today’s Question: Is there a pre-1950 film you particularly love?

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Finding Nemo

By , November 13, 2003

Last summer I watched Finding Nemo. I won’t spoil anything, so don’t worry about reading this review if you haven’t seen the movie yet. Maybe they find Nemo, maybe they don’t.

I must say, I walked into the theater with some hesitation, as the previews for the film struck me as less than exciting. I only opted to see the film after remembering that even thought Monsters, Inc. looked awful to me in previews, I loved it. So I gave Finding Nemo a chance. Sure enough, while I did not enjoy it quite as much as I did Monsters, Inc., I found Finding Nemo to be great fun. For what it’s worth, my favorite fish in the film is Dori.

If you’re not familiar with the film, I will give you a bit of the story, and again, I promise not to spoil anything. Nemo, the son of a clownfish named Marlin, is captured by a fisherman, and Marlin sets off to rescue him. Much hilarity ensues.

Oh, and don’t be fooled. Nemo is lost, then found, in the first few moments of the film. I feared the film had ended and stood to leave the theater, feeling more than a little ripped off I must say, but it turned to be mere foreshadowing, and the film continued.

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