Thursday, 8 April 2010

Film Review: Kick-Ass

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriter: Jane Goldman [screenplay], Mark Millar [comic book series]
Main Cast: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Runtime: 117 minutes
Certificate: 15 (UK)
Brief Summary: Dave Lizewski is an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a super-hero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so.
Tagline: I can't fly. But I can kick your ass.

It's hard to believe that a fantasy about a fallen star falling in love has something in common with this controversial comedy about a wannabe superhero, but the team behind Stardust have returned with the highly anticipated Kick-Ass. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman should be renamed the Dream Team because both films rank pretty highly on my favourites list.

The main character is played by Aaron Johnson, previously seen in Nowhere Boy and Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging and he definitely holds his own against more seasoned actors such as Cage and Mintz-Plasse. However, whilst Kick-Ass and Red Mist make great comedy when partnered, the real scene stealers are Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Cage's Big Daddy appears to be a caricature of Batman, and is notably Cage's best performance to date. And, I will be very surprised (and disappointed) if young Chloe Moretz doesn't win herself a few award nominations. The Goodfellas-style villains are commendable, also.

If I'm being honest, I'd missed seeing any trailers for this film, and usually I only watch films that I've been tempted to see through the trailers. Despite this, I had heard so many great reviews and that was encouragement enough. Without a doubt, Kick-Ass is worth the hype! It merges both a great story with great visual effects (the style interchanges between real life and cartoon, in keeping with the superhero theme), and keeps up-to-date with pop culture references to the vast use of Myspace and Youtube. There were some predictable parts but this didn't ruin the enjoyment. The film is surreal but yet somehow all the characters are completely believable. It's a cliche that has been heavily overused, but Kick-Ass KICKS ASS.

I'd recommend this film to adrenalin junkies and comedy fans alike but it's maybe not for the faint-hearted - the explicit violence and portrayal of a homicidal young girl has drawn criticism (certain Daily Mail review, anyone?).

My rating:4/5

Sunday, 4 April 2010

Film Review: The Princess and The Frog

Director: Ron Clements, John Musker.
Screenwriter: Ron Clements, John Musker, Rob Edwards [screenplay], Ed Baker [story "The Frog Princess"]
Main Cast(voices): Anika Noni Rose, Bruno Campos, Keith David, Michael-Leon Wooley, Jennifer Cody, Jim Cummings, Peter Bartlett, Jenifer Lewis, Oprah Winfrey, Terrence Howard, John Goodman.
Runtime: 97 minutes.
Certificate: U (UK).
Brief Summary: A fairy tale set in Jazz Age-era New Orleans and centered on a young girl named Tiana and her fateful kiss with a frog prince who desperately wants to be human again.

Disney's newest offering marks a return to the studio's sorely missed 2D animation style, complete with show-stopping musical numbers. Ok, it's not quite up to the standard of Disney classics such as The Lion King or The Jungle Book, but it's a big step in the right direction.

The story is set in (old) New Orleans and revolves around Tiana (Rose) who has ambitions of owning her own restaurant, but has never quite managed to turn her dream into a reality. Enter Prince Naveen (Campos), who has become the victim of a voodoo spell and has subsequently been transformed into a frog. He encounters Tiana and in an attempt to reverse the spell, they kiss.

Now, this is where the story differs from 'The Frog Prince' story that the film is based on. Instead of Prince Naveen returning to his human form, Tiana becomes a frog herself. Together, they set off on an adventure meeting Ray (Cummings), the firefly and Louis (Wooley), the trumpet-playing alligator (only Disney...). As is the tradition for all Disney films, they face obstacles, overcome them and.... well, I'm not going to ruin the ending, but you get the idea.

Overall, it was a very enjoyable, vibrant film. Dr Facilier (David) makes a brilliant villain. His ability to move through shadows makes him that more terrifying, and gives him a slight edge over more conventional baddies. It's good to see that Disney aren't afraid to scare their young demographic a little bit, much like the sinister antagonists that I grew up being afraid of (in particular, Cruella DeVil).

The moral of the story (because every Disney film has an underlying moral) is, obviously, 'Don't Judge a Book by it's Cover', which is apt for a story about an African-American princess living during a time of racism. It's a promising message but there's not a lot of depth to it. However, I did leave the film feeling educated on the customs and traditions of the era. Everything related to New Orleans that you could possibly think of (or may not have already known about) has been name-dropped into the film. Mardi Gras? Check. Gumbo? Yup.

As previously stated, I did enjoy the film, but I was checking my watch towards the end which, for me, usually means it hasn't captivated my attention quite as much as I would have hoped. It's a fun film, but I did feel wistful for the Disney films of my own youth. Children, however, will definitely enjoy it.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Film Review: New Moon

Director: Chris Weitz
Screenwriter: Melissa Rosenberg [screenplay], Stephanie Meyer [novel].
Main Cast: Robert Pattinson, Kristen Stewart, Taylor Lautner
Runtime: 130 minutes
Certificate: 12A (UK)
Brief Summary: After Bella recovers from the vampire attack that almost claimed her life, she looks to celebrate her birthday with Edward and his family. However, a minor accident during the festivities results in Bella's blood being shed, a sight that proves too intense for the Cullens, who decide to leave the town of Forks, Washington for Bella and Edward's sake. Initially heartbroken, Bella finds a form of comfort in reckless living, as well as an even-closer friendship with Jacob Black. Danger in different forms awaits.
Tagline: The Next Chapter Begins

As New Moon has just recently been released on DVD, this review is ever-so-slightly overdue. However, due to my strong opinions on the 'Twilight' franchise, this was something I couldn't wait to sink my teeth into. (Sorry).

I've never been shy about my adverse feelings to Twilight. Call me a traditionalist but the whole concept of a 'vegetarian vampire' just doesn't make sense. By definition, vampires feed off the blood of others. Oh, but he feeds off the blood of animals? Well, then he's not a vegetarian. I may have held a more supportive attitude towards the film if that confusion had been avoided. Although that's unlikely. Nevertheless, I gave New Moon a chance, albeit with a strong degree of trepidation.

The second installment of the Twilight Saga is, unsurprisingly, drenched in teenage angst, reeking of hormones and lovesick adolescence. I know it's a film about vampires and werewolves but is it impossible for anyone to crack a smile? In fact, maybe they should rename the lead male Edward Sullen. (I know, I'm probably not the first to crack that joke). But in all seriousness, the acting was so wooden I was afraid of getting splinters in my eyes. Luckily for cast and crew, young female fans have a penchant for the two lead males (see Team Edward and Team Jacob). New Moon's producers take full advantage of this and include topless shots of both at every opportunity, in an attempt to distract from the lack of charisma and sleepy plot.

On a positive note, the production is MUCH better than in Twilight although I was surprised at how unrealistic the CGI wolves seemed, despite New Moon's blockbuster status. A pleasant surprise however was the addition of Michael Sheen as Aro, part of the Volturi (the most powerful of vampires). Unfortunately, you have to sit through most of the film before reaching this point, but Sheen's brilliant acting as the panto-style villain puts the rest of the main cast to shame.

The film could have been half the length that it was, had all the long, 'soul-searching' pauses been eliminated. You HAVE to have seen the first film, otherwise all of the constant references to previous events will just leave you confused. I left the cinema feeling only...tired. Forget Team Edward or Team Jacob. I'd rather Team Watch Paint Dry.

My rating: 2/5