The idea of a Kick-Ass sequel — even a good one, even one that might rope in an off-his-rocker Jim Carrey for more than a collective 10 minutes — seemed a bit unnecessary from the get-go. And this is coming from someone who liked the first movie, having delighted in its colorful charm and pitch black wit without the aid of any established fandom from Mark Millar's graphic novel. The 2010 superhero flick felt complete. It neatly rolled its ideas and themes into a standalone feature, notwithstanding the obvious sequel bait of its cliffhanger. So the announcement of a Kick-Ass 2? Yeah, sure, it could be fun. But "worthwhile" is another story.
Perhaps it's the absence of the original film's creative team — writer/director Matthew Vaughn and writer Jane Goldman hand all duties to Jeff Wadlow for the follow-up — that explains why Kick-Ass 2 feels not only subpar to its predecessor, but lacking in so much of its kinetic energy. Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) slay dozens of enemies, but not with the fresh vigor that kept the first movie from feeling overdone... somehow. Very little is energized in Kick-Ass 2, without a reborn Dave Lizweski's (Taylor-Johnson) booming origin story pushing forth the action, or the haunting vigor of a young Mindy Macready (Moretz) peppering in some highly macabre fun... and a few peeps of genuinely sweet, sad sensitivity. While Moretz's character, struggling to adjust to a new "normal" life as a high school student, does engage in an interesting new story, she isn't given the time to explore it fully, as our attention is diverted to Dave's return to the heroism game (which he does for no established reason, after a hiatus brought on for no established reason) and the ascension of Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) from bratty punk to full-fledged supervillain who calls himself The Motherf**ker.
The connotations of the name are particularly unsettling when you consider Chris' garb: a box full of S&M gear he finds in his mom's closet after inadvertently, though quite unapologetically, killing her in her tanning bed. The whole sequence of events is so mean-spirited and twisted that it just feels off-putting. It doesn't match the dark but earnest ambiance of Kick-Ass; it's as if the new mission statement was, "Let's make this one even more f**ked up!" In this tunnel vision endeavor, you lose the compassion that paddedKick-Ass' morbidity.
But there is fun to be had with the new film, most notably in its secondary players: Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl form a posse, made up most notably of ex-Mafioso Col. Stars and Stripes (Carrey, who reminds us that he's an undeniable hoot and far more versatile than he gets credit for being) and wannabe scientist Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison, launching his endearing goofiness to new extremes). But just as we could stand to have a lot more of Mindy's face-off with her new arch enemies — her high school's popular girls — we would love a chance to get to know these masked folk a bit better. Or at least watch them make more jokes!
Even the dull majority of Kick-Ass 2 never dips below watchable. Lacking in charm and spirit, but always "good enough" to keep us from losing interest altogether, the film doesn't plod along as much as it does just sort of skip in circles. A total failure of a movie? Hardly. But in its will to reinvent and experiment anew with everything we discovered in the original, we'd have to call Kick-Ass 2 effectively powerless.
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Rumors of a kick-ass Kick-Ass sequel have been floating around since the original's 2010 debut, but until Universal's confirmation last May, nothing seemed substantial. In fact, weeks before the announcement villain Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Red Mist) told Hollywood.com that even he wasn't sure if it was happening. "You know, we don't know," he said. "Chloë [Grace Moretz] just booked Carrie... it's just really hard right now with everyone's schedule. So it's up in the air."
Even after Universal's announcement, some (like Hollywood.com's own Matt Patches) had doubts about the sequel, due to the middling success of the first film, and the subsequent breakout success of its stars. Then things remained quiet on the Kick-Ass 2 front all summer, until this week — when news blew up like that guy in the giant microwave. Moretz, Mintz-Plasse, and titular star Aaron Johnson are all returning (with rumors of Nicolas Cage making a cameo), and several other notable stars have joined the mix. Below, find the fix biggest reasons why this was a kick-ass week:
1. Donald Faison, Robert Emms, and Morris Chestnut are our new heroes.
Last Wednesday, it was announced that Donald Faison — best known as Turk from Scrubs, (or Murray from Clueless if you're a '90s fan) — had joined the cast as Dr. Gravity, that dude in the puffy purple coat. In the comics, Gravity is a copy-writer who teams up with Kick-Ass and Hit Girl to take on Red Mist (who apparently changes his name to Motherf***er). Gravity comes equipped with a "Gravity Pole" (a baseball bat covered in toil foil) that he says helps him float off the ground. Of course this isn't true, so it looks like Hit Girl may have to pass on some of her extensive martial arts training. Faison is a bone fide hilarious goofball, so adding him to the mix should bring some great comedy.
Then we have Robert Emms (War Horse) and Morris Chestnut (American Horror Story), who have signed on as Insect Man and Hit Girl's guardian, respectively. Insect Man is a policeman-by-day who joins Dr. Gravity in the newly-formed "Justice Forever" group, designed to destroy Red Mist/Motherf***er. Less is known about Chestnut's character, but if the story stays true to the comics then he'll be taking on the role of Sergeant Marcus Williams, who was played by Omari Hardwick in the first movie.
2. John Leguizamo is Red Mist's new bodyguard.
Since Kick-Ass and Hit Girl basically slaughtered Red Mist's entire family, as well has his mobster father's vast criminal empire, he'll be in dire need of some assistance. Thankfully, as announced late last month, he'll have some help in the form of a new bodyguard, Javier. All Super Mario Brothers aside, John Leguizamo can do no wrong, so we're particularly excited about this bit of casting. But there's more — Universal has announced that Red Mist will assemble a new team of villains as he transforms into Motherf***er, so we'll be on the lookout for even more casting news in the near future.
3. We have a release date!
On Wednesday, Universal announced that June 28, 2013, will be the big day. Mark your calendars!
4. Christopher Mintz-Plasse teased a script-pic.
On Tuesday, the Tweet-happy actor shared a photo from his Instagram account of scribe Jeff Wadlow's latest draft. It doesn't give away anything, but it looks pretty damn cool.
5. Wow, look at Chloë Moretz!
Okay, so this isn't exactly news, but the first film's murderous tiny tot has morphed into a beautiful young woman before our very eyes. She's currently up in Toronto shooting Carrie (playing the titular role), and it will be interesting to see how Kick-Ass 2 tackles the challenge of Hit Girl not being much of a girl anymore. She killed 41 people in Kick-Ass, and the spectacle of an adorable child brutally taking down mobsters was one of the film's major selling points. Is the world ready for Hit Woman? Stay tuned!
Follow Shaunna on Twitter @HWShaunna
[PHOTO CREDIT: Marvel/Instagram/Wenn.com]
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Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.
After decades of moviemaking years spent honing his craft and sifting through the industry's best collaborators to form a cinematic dream team Steven Spielberg is one of the few directors whose films routinely hit a bar of high quality. Even his more haphazard efforts are competently constructed and executed with unbridled passion reeling in audiences with drama adventure and big screen fun. There really isn't a "bad" Spielberg movie. His latest War Horse isn't in the top tier of the grandmaster's filmography but as a work of pure sentimentality and spectacle the film delivers rousing entertainment. Makes sense: a horse's heart is about eight times the size of a human's and War Horse's is approximately that much bigger than every other movie in 2011.
The titular equine is Joey a horse born in the English countryside in 1914 who triumphantly navigates the ravished European landscape during the first World War. A good hour of the 146 minute film is spent establishing the savvy creature's friendship with his first owner Albert (Jeremy Irvine). A farmer boy with a penchant for animal training Albert copes with his alcoholic father Ted (Peter Mullan) and their homestead's dwindling funds but finds much needed hope in the sprite Joey. After blessing Albert and company with a few miracles Ted makes the wise decision of selling Joey off to the war and the real adventure begins.
Like Forrest Gump of the animal kingdom the lucky stallion finds himself intertwined with an eclectic handful of persons. He encoutners the owner of a British Captain preparing a surprise attack. He becomes the ride for two German army runaways the prized possession of young French girl and her grandfather and the unifier of two warring soldiers in the battlefield's No Man's Land. From the beginning to the end of the war Joey miraculously sees it all all in hopes of one day crossing Albert's path again.
Spielberg avoids any over-the-top Mr. Ed techniques in War Horse but amazingly the horses employed to play Joey deliver a riveting muted "performance" that's alive on screen. The animal is the lead of the movie his human co-stars (including Thor's Tom Hiddleston The Reader's David Kross and Toby Kebbell of Prince of Persia) sprinkled around Joey to complicate his (and our) experience of war.
But even with a stellar cast working at full capacity War Horse falters thanks to its episodic nature. It is a movie of moments—awe-inspiring breathtaking and heartfelt—stuffed with long stretches of underdeveloped characters guiding us through meandering action. Spielberg's longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski makes the varying environments visually enthralling—from the dark blue hues of war to rolling green hills backdropped with stunning sunsets—and John Williams' score matches the film's epic scope but without Albert in the picture's second half War Horse simply gallops around in circles.
Spielberg is a master craftsman and War Horse a masterful craft but the movie lacks a necessary intimacy to hook us into the story's bigger picture. The ensemble's devotion and affection for Joey sporadically resonates—how could it not? Look at that adorable horse!—but even those emotional beats border on goofy (at one point Hiddleston's character decides to sketch Joey a moment I found eerily reminiscent of Jack sketching Rose in Titanic). War Horse really hits its stride when Spielberg pulls back the camera and lets his keen eye for picturesque composition do the talking. Or from Joey's perspective neighing.
Roberts has already signed to star in cult director Tarsem Singh's retelling of the classic fairytale, and Phil Collins' daughter Lily will play the lead.
Now its been revealed that Broadway legend Lane is in the last stage of negotiations to play the wicked queen's bumbling man-servant, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
Newcomer Robert Emms has also signed on for the film.
'Steven Spielberg' is one of those names that has such cachet that we sit up and take notice any time he does, well, anything. Although Spielberg's last project was 2008's disappointing Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, his latest, War Horse, looks to hearken back to the tone of his 1987 Empire of the Sun with its war-torn setting and human drama.
War Horse - the story of the friendship between a boy (Joey) and his horse, who is sold to the British army during the First World War (the horse, not the boy) - boasts an impressive international cast, with Jeremy Irvine (formerly of the National Youth Theatre) playing the young horse owner, Emily Watson (Gosford Park, Cold Souls) playing his mother, and Peter Mullan (Trainspotting, Children of Men) his father. Niels Arestrup (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) plays the grandfather of a young French girl (Celine Buckens) who takes Joey in.
Other renowned members of the cast include Tom Hiddleston (to play Loki in Thor and the upcoming Avengers movie), Rainer Bock (Inglorious Basterds), Patrick Kennedy (Atonement), and Stephen Graham (Baby Face Nelson in Public Enemies and Al Capone in the upcoming HBO series Boardwalk Empire). Rounding out the ensemble are Nicolas Bro, Leonard Carow, Robert Emms, and David Kross.
War Horse is being adapted by Lee Hall, the writer behind Billy Elliot, and Richard Curtis from the novel by Michael Morpurgo. Expect War Horse to hit theaters August 10, 2011.
Source: Empire Online