Saturday, April 24, 2010

Review: Kick-Ass

Fight like a little girl

Kick-Ass is a parody of superhero movies, particularly Spider-man. But unlike other spoofs, Kick-Ass is a notch better than the rest of its ilk, with cleverer jokes and no cartoon-illogic, anvil-dropping nonsenses, if I remembered correctly. Without a PG-rating restrain, the movie gets to spice things up with some gratuitous violence and darkly, morbid humour. Still, the movie was a few steps short of greatness because of the way it unevenly handles two different storylines that don't seem to gel all that well together.

The two main reasons to watch Kick-Ass are Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz) and Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage). They are the most compelling characters in the movie, and a strange mix of realism and exaggeration of some of your favourite comic book heroes. They are a bizarre and unhealthy father-and-daughter vigilante team where one of their crimefighting training involves the dad shooting his ten-year-old daughter in the chest with a gun. They do the most ass-kicking in the movie, especially the ten-year-old. Imagine O-Ren Ishii from Kill Bill during her prepubescent years.

Less interesting is the titular character, Kick-Ass (Aaron Johnson). Although he is the more realistic character, his storyline takes a too-obvious jab at Spider-man, from the Tobey Maguire-like voiceovers to the rooftop-jumping trials. Such smugness somehow doesn't really fit the realistic tone the movie was obviously aiming for. His story shows how completely stupid it is for a completely average guy to try and become a costumed hero. For a character named Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass spends more time getting his ass kicked than kicking asses.

As I said before, the two really doesn't mix when one is more fantastical while the other plays it real. Maybe it would have worked better if it is a story about an average dude who tries to be a superhero in a superhero world and not the real world. Or if the director or writer just removed some of the snide remarks about superhero cliches, which doesn't help when the movie actually plays to the cliches later on. Another idea is to relegate Kick-Ass' character to a supporting role and reduce his screen time. I had the same indifferent feeling when I was watching Watchmen, which later warmed me over on Blu-Ray. Perhaps I will like Kick-Ass more after a few home viewings. Right now, it's just a high Average for me.

Some cool taglines from the movie:
With no power comes no responsibility.
I can't fly/read your mind/be invisible/see through walls. But I can kick your ass.
Whenever Hit Girl swears.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Review: Clash of the Titans

The 2010 remake of the thirtysomething's childhood favourite tries to be grittier and Gladiator, but succeeds only marginally. Clearly wanting to separate itself from the original's childish leanings, the remake blatantly snubs Bubo the mechanical owl in its strive towards seriousness and "realism" (if that's even possible for a fantasy fest like this one.)

Still, the remake's story is actually weaker than the original. At least the motivations of the hero and other characters in the original were straightforward: kill the good/bad guy, get the girl, win the day. When you have a hero that just wants to kill the bad guy for revenge, doesn't give two poops about the girl, and couldn't care less about winning the day, it makes you wonder why he even bothers with the Kraken deadline. I'm sure if he taunts Hades long enough, the evil god would eventually show up for the hero to kick his ass. I mean, it worked pretty well for those Argos soldiers who smashed down Zeus' statue, though they were sorely lacking in contingency planning.

The action definitely benefits from a CGI facelift. Well, mostly. I enjoyed its version of the Kraken finale, which was able to convey the monster's immense and frightening scale through low-position camera angles, and did the job far better than Kraken 1981. The new Pegasus the winged horse is the most impressive special effect I've ever seen! The movement of its CGI wings are just so seamless and real, and it's impossible to tell where the CGI ends and the real horse begins. If someone tells me that what I saw wasn't even a real horse to begin with, I will take my 3D modelling course certificate and shove it up an orifice. Sadly, Clash of the Titans 2010 failed miserably in the Medusa sequence, which was easily the best scene in the 1981 movie. The original Medusa was a genuine Grade A uncompromising badass movie monster, while 2010 Medusa kept reminding me of The Mummy Returns' (2001) crappy CGI Scorpion King.

I thought Sam Worthington did a pretty good job with a lacking material, though he was much better in Terminator Salvation. Was surprised to see Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston and Pete Postlethwaite, and Bond alums Gemma Arterton (Quantum of Solace) and Mads Mikkelsen (Casino Royale). The cast was put to ample use in a men-on-a-mission type of storyline, though it needed a little more humour and feeling of camaraderie.

Overall: Average actioner. The original wins by nostalgia and Medusa.

P.S.: I heard they haphazardly put in the 3-D effects at the last minute (upon hearing word of Avatar's success) and the end result was a murky, headache-inducing mess. Thus, I sensibly did not order the upsize, and opted for the regular.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

The price you pay for original?

Caveat emptor... let the buyer beware! According to the Sunday Straits, video stores have been unwittingly peddling pirated wares forged by the Jack Sparrows of the movie industry, whose scanning and Photoshop skills have shown marked improvements.

However, this is not the first time poop like this has happened. Many ages ago, a video store with a name that rhymes with "taser" brought in purportedly original VCDs of Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and Return of the King from Thailand, mere weeks after the theatrical release. Took a while before anyone noticed the aquatic stench, including yours truly, who was at the time just too elated to have the opportunity to revisit Middle Earth at such short notice. The company was slapped with a million-dollar fine for its efforts; unfortunately I can't seem to track down the original news article about this fiasco. Hopefully, the evidences of my gullibility, as pictured on the left, would suffice.

Anyway, the article suggests that we should all become digital artwork analysts and look out for slightly "pixellated" graphics, in order to guard ourselves from these fakes. We know how busy the officials are, catching those pesky teen downloaders and fining holiday-ers who bought the same fake DVDs abroad; we must do our part to protect the billion-dollar movie industry from losing millions. Actually, there is an easier and quicker way to spot a dodgy DVD - if an English movie has big Chinese titles on its cover, avoid buying it. This will reduce your chances of making a bogus buy by about maybe 99, 100%?

Left picture: The Maltese Falcon DVD, a made in Taiwan variant (with an all-English cover art) sold at Suntec Carrefour for a measly S$6.99...

Err... Then again, maybe not.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Review: Up

To my dear brother Will2k who fell asleep during The Mummy 3...

Saw "Up". You won't fall asleep on this one. In fact, bring extra tissues.

Pixar has done it again, again, again, etc. Shit, can they not fail? Maybe they should fail once, so that at least I don't have to say "they have done it again" once again.

It's one of those good movies where there's no point talking about it since it only ruins the experience for those who haven't seen it. All I will say is that a small chunk of it was inspired by Hayao Miyazaki's "Laputa: Castle in the Sky", but the rest of the magic is pure Pixar effort.

A bit surprised how Up is startlingly similar to Gran Torino's old white geezer meets Asian kid and both learn life lessons plot, complete with dogs, but with more balloons and lesser guns.

Seems like the best movie directors nowadays all work for Pixar. The rest of the crap goes to Hollywood. Easily, best movie of the year before seeing The Hurt Locker, District 9, and Inglourious Basterds.

Anyway, "Up" is two thumbs way up, with balloons tied to my thumbs.

55 MINUTES LATER: I just read The Outlaw Vern's review, and realised he has beaten me to the Gran Torino reference. So, credit is given where credit's due.