Tiny Beam of Light

Shining a tiny beam of light on some great films you might not know existed (and the odd blockbuster too).

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) dir: Jeff Wadlow

I loved Kick-Ass (see my original Kick-Ass write up!) and thought it truly great.

Or to put it in perspective: my wife hates comic book movies.  Her verdicts:

The Dark Knight: “Boring.” She’s watched it three times, but only the first 10 minutes on each occasion.

Watchman: “Fuck off.  It’s a little boys film.”

Spider-man 2:  Fell asleep. I remember this was on my birthday – a day when I can choose to do anything (it’s my BIRTHDAY for CHRISSAKE!) We went to see it after 3 hours of arguing about my choice.

Avengers Assemble? Don’t even go there…she’d been ruined by the first two Hulk movies.

And she is not at all keen on extreme movie violence either.

Double whammy.  So I dragged her kicking and screaming to see the original Kick-Ass . At the end of the movie, as the credits rolled, she turned to me and said: “I’d see that again”.

And we have. Loads! So she was dead keen to see the sequel as well! Hurrah!

I know Kick-Ass 2 has had some shoddy reviews but that doesn’t always reflect the enjoyment that you can get from watching a movie. So…

Dave (Kick-Ass) and Mindy (Hit-Girl) are now at high school, Chris (Red-Mist) wants revenge on Kick-Ass for the death of his Dad in Kick-Ass the Original and to become the worlds first super-villain. Dave wants to train to be a real superhero, Mindy decides to quit as Hit-Girl and to become accepted amongst her bitchy high school peers, so Dave/Kick-Ass teams up with some other superheroes.

It all goes pear-shaped. As does the film.

First 30 minutes in and I’m wondering… what the fuck has happened? Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Chloë Grace Moretz. Christopher Mintz-Plasse. All great actors. But they’re delivering lines flat and gurning away in their close-ups – they’re just…bad. Did the director not turn up, just go home early or what? I found it painful to watch.  Thank heavens for John Leguizamo and Morris Chestnut in their roles.

Then Colonel Star & Stripes (Jim Carey) arrives. We start to get a few good lines, however now we’re getting some odd edits and the fight scenes are choppy.  But at least the movie is finally becoming entertaining – super villain side-kick Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) makes use of a lawnmower in a pretty novel way – and the story is picking up… and it stays “entertaining” all the way to the end.

Hell there is even a particularly nice action sequence with Hit Girl atop a moving  van as she’s being shot at.  She clambers all over it as it speeds along (what looks like very British countryside) and takes out the bad guys – knocking them under and over the other traffic . Unfortunately it didn’t half remind me of the good (or bad) days of the Sir Roger Moore James Bond movies:  great action, brilliant stunt work, nice humour, cut to actor – shit fake background – sequence ruined.

And I think that is the problem. It’s a fake Kick-Ass movie. Pretending to be Kick-Ass the Original. Photocopying all that was great about the Kick-Ass the Original but really only a faded and skewiff two dimensional Xerox.

So ultimately “entertaining” but a major disappointment.  My wife agrees.

I wonder if they’ll let me direct Kick-Ass 3?

Filed under: action, comic book, fantasy, film, martial arts, Must Read, , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Raid (2011) dir: Gareth Evans

Or ‘The Raid: Redemption’ to those of you in the USA. This is so much more than a small indie martial arts action flick.

I’d been looking forward to this movie for ages. It had a trailer which screamed: “this is a cool film! Check me out and don’t worry I promise the film will be even better than the trailer! Trust me!!!”. And you know what? It sure is.

I’m a huge martial arts fan so tend to be less keen on Hollywood style action sequences which involve fast cutting and multiple angles – usually either attempting to generate excitement or destroying the skill of the performers involved. This is old school fighting with some modern twists – which looks dangerous (and is) – executed with huge skill – not only by the lead (Iko Uwais) but by a whole host of other performers.

The story is crisp, a swat team get trapped in a building full of bad guys trying to kill them, but what elevates the film from a good action movie to greatness is the sound design, the score, the stylish direction and the little details – such as, well that would be telling.

The combat is hardcore, such as a knife battle involving multiple knife men, and fights end in fast close up gory kills with the odd “eep!!!” moment. Don’t let that put you off though. It’s visceral, tense and exciting.

All credit must go to the writer/director, Welshman Gareth Evans, who has taken an opportunity to make a movie in Indonesia – in a language he doesn’t understand – and smash a six (or homerun) out of the stadium.

Update:

You want the trailer here:


http://trailers.apple.com/trailers/sony/theraidredemption/

Not some of the other bastardised ones that distributors have been putting out.

Filed under: action, film, martial arts, Must See, thriller, , ,

Kick-Ass (2010) dir: Matthew Vaughn

So busy trying to get my own film up and running that it’s taken me over a week to write this up. And yes it’s not really a small movie as it cost $30m, but it’s an indie movie made to look and compete with Hollywood fair.

Arron Johnson is a high school kid who loves comic books. He poses this question. Why aren’t there any real super heroes? So he buys a wet suit and mask and decides to fight crime as ‘Kick-Ass’. And immediately finds out why there aren’t real crime fighting super heroes. However, he becomes a youtube sensation and comes to the attention of Father and Daughter crime fighting team ‘Big Daddy’ (aka Damon Macready aka Nic Cage) and ‘Hitgirl’ (aka Mindy Macready aka Chloë Grace Moretz). ‘Nuff said.

It’s these last two characters and their relationship that really elevates an already good movie to greatness. This is also easily Nic Cage’s best film in ages – it’s almost like his character here is an older, slightly more domesticated ‘Sailor Ripley ‘ (his character in Wild at Heart) – you can imagine ‘Hit Girl’ being his offspring. And Chloë Grace Moretz, a seasoned actress already at 13, is, to put it bluntly, amazing.

Sure it is going to upset some members of the audience, what with a little girl killing and maiming the bad guys as expletives roll off her tongue. But this is a comic book movie, made by comic book fans, and in conjunction with, the great comic book writer Mark Millar. Often laugh out loud and jaw dropping. The script by Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn just zings with energy and although there is plenty of action it’s often the small scenes that are so memorable. My favourite is a quiet little interlude where dad Damon and his little girl Mindy are sitting in a diner eating ice cream sodas together, and she’s telling him what she wants for her birthday. And she asking for (I think!) a puppy dog and all sorts of girly fluffy toys – all the while her dad’s face is drooping with disappointment and sadness. Then Mindy looks into her dad’s eyes and goes. “I’m just fucking with you Daddy!” and then describes the lethal weaponry that she’d really like and his face lights up with pride and happiness!

Matthew Vaughn directs with utter control as the film could have easily have been terrible. His best work yet.

I loved it and can’t wait to see it again. Even my wife who pretty much hates comic book related films (she was bored by The Dark Knight for goodness sake and refused to come to Watchmen) was converted and has stated that she would be happy to accompany me! All is well in my household.

Filed under: action, comic book, film, martial arts, , , , , ,

Chocolate (2008) dir: Prachya Pinkaew

This film could never be made in the West. An autistic action martial arts movie? Two autistic kids going Bruce Lee on each other? Outrageous. But this is a Thai movie so sensibilities are different and quite frankly, why not?

Prachya Pinkaew and Panna Rittikrai (director and fight choreographer of ‘Ong-Bak’ respectively) stated that they were looking for a female ‘Tony Jaa’. If you now have no idea what I’m on about and like action movies, specifically martial arts action movies, then rent ‘Ong-Bak’.  (Or catch the sequel – out soon). It was great! And a new direction for martial arts movies and stunts.

So, the director, having found 18 year old Jeeja Yanin (a Taekwando teacher), spent 2 years getting her trained in various martial arts disciplines and gymnastics then another 2 years in preparation and actual filming to produce ‘Chocolate’ – a film vehicle purpose built around Ms Yanin’s superb fighting skills.  And she has a natural acting talent to boot. But what makes her unusual, apart from her style, is that she’s so, erm, delicate. You’d think she was going to break in two as she takes out 40 henchmen.

So in ‘Chocolate’, Jeeja plays the autistic daughter of a woman who was once a gangster. Her mother now has cancer, and desperately needs money for treatment, so Jeeja and her best friend go off to collect the money owed to her Mum from assorted businesses and criminals. Jeeja, being special, has heightened senses and a talent for picking up fighting moves from movies, games and the martial arts school next door – pretty handy when people don’t want to pay up.

Storywise the film is a bit clumsy and feels really artificial, especially the first 10 minutes, lift style pop music is also sprinkled across the soundtrack which doesn’t help – so hang in there. Once Jeejaa Yanin gets to strut her stuff we’re in for some great sequences. My favourite being the ‘Fighting on the Street Signs’ sequence at the end.  Well worth checking out – it’s on DVD in several countries and has a small theatrical run in the USA in 2009.

I look forward to her next movie and hope the story and fight sequences are meshed together to create a more satisfying whole, and if we’re lucky, a classic. She deserves it.

Filed under: action, drama, film, martial arts, , , , , , ,

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