Theatrical Review: Kick-Ass 2

Since the events of the first Kick-Ass movie, Kick-Ass himself, Dave Lizewski has laid low and tried to resume a normal life. The same can also be said of Mindy Macready, also known as Hit-Girl. Mindy has sworn to her guardian, Detective Marcus Williams, that she’d lie low and try to be a normal kid. But in the wake of their first adventure, Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl have inspired more normal citizens to don costumes and fight crime in their own way and now both Dave and Mindy are feeling the need to get back into their former lives. In the background, Chris D’Amico, formerly known as the Red Mist, now seeks revenge against Kick-Ass for killing his father and begins to build a plot that will affect Dave and everyone he knows.

That’s the premise to Kick-Ass 2 the sequel the original Kick-Ass movie from director Matthew Vaughan based around the comics created by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. I’ve not read the sequel comic series, so I can’t necessarily say exactly how faithful this is, but if this movie is any indication, well it’s making me want to order the collection for the sequel sooner than later. Matthew Vaughan is only connected here as the producer of the film and now it’s in the more than capable hands of writer/director Jeff Wadlow, who for my money anyway, has made a sequel that’s superior to the original film. Wow- Kick-Ass 2 was just a lot of fun!

Kick-Ass 2 is certainly just as profane and violent as the original film, but it also feels to me like there’s quite a bit more heart here and genuine emotion in all of it’s main characters, Dave, Mindy and even Chris D’Amico and that’s what makes it rise just a little bit more for me. It absolutely looks fantastic and big kudos go Wadlow’s way for keeping the same comic book aesthetic that Matthew Vaughan had in the first film. One of my favorite points in the movie involves Kick-Ass joining up with a team of crime-fighters organized by the hero known as Colonel Stars and Stripes. For me, this scene brought to mind the movie Mystery Men with it’s misfit heroes and tremendous heart and while I was already enjoying this up to that point, that just sort of notched things up a little further.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse all return from the original film as Dave, Mindy and Chris respectively. In the first film, Moretz literally stole the show and she does a terrific job here as well, but it’s a little more tempered than it was the first time. Taylor-Johnson is certainly very likable and still rock-solid in his part and even taking it further to really build himself up physically for this. The real surprise here for me in the main cast though is Christopher Mintz-Plasse. I wasn’t exactly thrilled with him in the first movie, but here he’s ratcheted things up considerably and has made for a villain that you can totally get, even if it’s in the broadest of ways. Where he really excels is in a scene where he has to go to jail to talk with a former associate of his father’s. This scene leaves an indelible mark on Chris D’Amico and Mintz-Plasse just thoroughly convinces you of that.

There’s lots of good support here as well, both Clark Duke and Augustus Prew return as Dave’s friends Marty and Todd and they’re certainly fun to watch. Donald Faison and Lindy Booth are two of Dave’s associates in Justice Forever, Dr. Gravity and Night Bitch and both really add to the fun. John Leguizamo plays Javier who sort of acts as Alfred to Chris D’Amico’s twisted Bruce Wayne and again, he’s fun to watch and really adds more to Chris D’Amico’s character. But the real stand-out for me in the support area is Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes. Yeah, Carrey’s certainly been on the record as denouncing the movie for it’s extreme violence, and yet it all sorta goes away when you see him on-screen here. He absolutely looks like he’s having a ball with the part and as a character certainly does much to further inspire Dave Lizewski.

What can I say? I had an incredibly good time with Kick-Ass 2, going so far to say that I enjoyed it even more than the original (and I had a good time with that as well). It’s a terrific looking film that just rejoices in keeping the same aesthetic that you see in John Romita Jr.’s art from the comics and yet for all of it’s violence and profanity, there’s genuine heart and emotion here as well making you care for the characters even more. One little word of note, stay through the end credits as there is a final scene that basically says things aren’t as final as they seem. If you enjoyed the first film, you’ll have a ball with Kick-Ass 2. Highly, highly recommended.


Theatrical Review: Jobs

Honestly, if someone would’ve told me that I’d willingly be going to see a movie starring Ashton Kutcher, I probably would’ve just laughed in their face as I’m not exactly what you’d call a fan. But, I’ve always been an Apple Computer guy and more specifically a Macintosh user. I’ve sworn by Macs since the SE days and still use them today. So when I hear that Ashton Kutcher is playing Steve Jobs in a docudrama about Jobs’ life, well I have to take notice and I also have to admit, Kutcher certainly looks the part.

Jobs is the story of the rise of college drop-out Steve Jobs to becoming one of the most creative and honored entrepreneurs of our time. This follows Jobs’ career from building Apple Computer out of his parents’ garage all the way to the introduction of the iPod in 2001. Jobs comes to us from director Joshua Michael Stern who prior to this directed the movie Swing Vote starring Kevin Costner (which I have not seen). The fodder is certainly here for an entertaining movie and it’s been seen before in a fine effort from the TNT cable network, an adaptation of the book, Pirates of Silicon Valley that contrasted the rise of both Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (starring Noah Wyle and Anthony Michael Hall respectively). Unfortunately, this theatrical effort doesn’t exactly do much to make it more than a glorified TV movie, feeling more like an outline that hits the high points, but finds little to glue it all together much less make you feel the drive that Jobs had.

This feels like it’s missing entire chunks of Jobs’ life like explaining further about the deep friendship between Jobs and Steve Wozniak, who many see as the heart of Apple. Further, this tells us of Jobs’ rejection of his pregnant girlfriend and his daughter, but then later picks up with Jobs taking his daughter into his life with only a simple scene of Jobs looking at one of his daughter’s letters being the transition point. These are, at least to me, two very key points in Jobs life that brought about a personal change that allowed him to come back to Apple in 1996, and yet there’s little here to help illustrate that.

The way this is all put together feels extremely rushed and by the numbers, and as far as I know, that just might’ve been Stern’s intent, but it fails on making this magnetic storytelling. Jobs really needed to look at something like David Fincher’s The Social Network and develop something that would’ve told this story in a more effective way, maybe not with the same sort of edge that The Social Network has, but with something that better illustrates the passion behind the creation. As an avid Mac user myself, I think going for a route in that direction at least would’ve been more of a draw for me as I know just how passionate Mac users can be about what they create with their machines.

As I said at the start, I’m not really any sort of fan of Ashton Kutcher’s, but I do have to give him credit for taking this part and at least looking like he’s done his homework. Now with that said, I still think he falls a little short here looking more like he’s doing an impression than inhabiting a part. When I see one of his co-stars, Josh Gad (who plays Steve Wozniak) soldiering a motherboard, I get the impression that Gad knew what he was doing, but I don’t get the same vibe off of Kutcher’s performance. Further support is provided by Dermot Mulroney, Matthew Modine and J.K. Simmons (playing Mike Markula, John Sculley and Arthur Rock respectively) as the corporate body of Apple that wrests control away from Jobs. It’s serviceable work but that’s about it.

As a Mac user, I really wanted to like Jobs a lot more and there are certainly parts here that I did enjoy (the scenes where Steve Wozniak leaves Apple and where Jobs loses control of Apple come immediately to mind). But it still feels like there’s way too much missing that could’ve made this a more full experience. Sure, it’s certainly understandable that you can’t get in every little point to fit into a two-hour time frame, but still Jobs needed another pass at the script to get something that felt like a little more than a script outline.