Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Theater Interruption (Kick-Ass 2 / You're Next)

Welcome to the newest installment in our "Summer of... Meh" series.

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writers: Jeff Wadlow (screenplay), Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. (comic book)

Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse

It is not as good as the sequel I had hoped for, but not nearly as bad as the one that I expected, either. There's a pretty decent amount of delicious over-the-top comedy and violence on display, but it is also missing a couple key ingredients that elevated the original (at least a bit). First, you never realize how much you like Nicholas Cage until he is not there anymore. His Big Daddy character was great and far better than the kinda-sorta replacement, Colonel Stars and Stripes, as (under)played by Jim Carrey. Second, the comedy is more scattershot and less satirical than what was featured in the first. The voice-over narration from Kick-Ass was noticeably lacking in this installment as well. Not bad, but not particularly interesting.

Score: 5 / 10

You're Next (2011)

Director: Adam Wingard
Writer: Simon Barrett
Stars: Sharni Vinson, Joe Swanberg, AJ Bowen

This one's apparently been sitting on the shelf for a while waiting for a distributor - which is weird, considering the dearth of interesting horror for the past couple of years. Of course, the fact that it is as much a black comedy as it is a straight horror flick could have something to do with that. Wingard and Barrett know their slasher tropes and want to make sure you realize just how clever and subversive they're being in one scene before completely changing course and playing everything completely straight in the next. This results in the movie tripping over itself quite a bit while it tries to play hopscotch between black comedy and horror, but there were still enough laughs and extreme kills that I enjoyed myself throughout. It is nice to have certain clichés turned on their head for once, but it seems like the creators find this far cleverer than it actually is in practice.

Score: 5 / 10

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Episode Twelve-Point-Five (The Asphalt Jungle / The Wolverine)

The Asphalt Jungle (1950)

Director: John Huston
Writers: Ben Maddow and John Huston (screenplay), W.R. Burnett (novel)
Stars: Sterling Hayden, Louis Calhern, Jean Hagen

A classic heist film that is less interested in the heist itself and more interested in the characters involved. Fortunately, the characters are mostly interesting and far more three-dimensional than most cardboard cutouts you'd find in other caper films. Sam Jaffe is the highlight in an overall solid cast as the criminal mastermind. If there is a true weak link in this film, it is Jean Hagen's character who comes across as clingy and fairly annoying. Great atmosphere and quite tense at times, featuring excellent noir aesthetics.

Score: 7 / 10

The Wolverine (2013)

Director: James Mangold
Writers: Mark Bomback and Scott Frank (screenplay)

Stars: Hugh Jackman, Tao Okamoto, Rila Fukushima

If there is one thing that The Wolverine absolutely nails, it is the characterization of the title character. The film does a great job of fleshing out Logan's struggles with his immortality and the fact that he had to kill the woman he loved - Jackman is great, as always. The film also nails the action scene on top of the bullet train; it is exciting, unique and has some funny moments. Outside of these aspects, things are kind of a mess. The villains are some of the weakest I've seen and, while the Japanese setting is pleasing, the plot itself is mediocre at best. Very middle of the road overall, but a giant leap forward from Origins.

Score: 5 / 10

Side notes: 1) I still want to know how Aronofsky's R-rated Wolverine movie would have turned out and 2) I feel like I should award a bonus point for how damn awesome that poster is...