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Kick-Ass, The Losers, Cop Out and Daybreakers…..Eh, I’ve Been Busy

2010/08/27

Fantasy Football season is coming up, and I finally finished watching Buffy The Vampire Slayer in its entirety — I’ve been distracted. Look at the benefit to you:  now it’s a really long post that can fill four days worth of your spare time.  HOORAY!  See, I love you after all…..   

Kick-Ass (2010) – Mark Millar, the comic creator of Kick-Ass has had a nice run with his style – which generally consists of ‘making the comic world a little more real’.  For a more precise definition, with his work on The AuthorityThe Ultimates and Wanted, amongst others, this has typically involved dropping liberal handfuls of f-bombs, a more brutal type of violence and a heightened sense of super-being self-awareness in the world around them.  They are pretty good reads, and Wanted, despite Millar’s claims with the movie release that he never wanted it set in a world of superheroes in the first place, is about nine million times better in the comic form than that random-fighting snuff-film of a movie.  Essentially, he’s taken the old Marvel ‘What If?’ series from the 70s and 80s and made himself a millionaire off it.   

In the case of Kick-Ass, it’s essentially:  ‘What if Peter Parker never had any powers, and wasn’t particularly smart, but decided to become SpiderMan anyway?’.   The answer is pretty clear:  He’d be a slightly malnourished-looking doorknob in a scuba suit who gets his ass handed to him a lot.  And that, really, is Kick-Ass in a nutshell.  Our hero (played by Aaron Johnson – a surprise, since I just assumed these parts only went to Michael ‘Limited’ Cera and Jesse Eisenberg)  never really gets any smarter, or better, at the job throughout the course of the story – he mostly just gets fortunate that he doesn’t die.  He does get some of his bones lined with metal after being run over by a car (What’s up, Wolverine!), but that pretty much just enables him to take fiercer beatings.  Oh, and a video of him taking a beating gets posted on YouTube, so he becomes popular (and – in what seems to be his primary motivator – now seems to have the ability to ‘maybe get laid sometime’.  SUPER!).    

His arch nemesis is The Kingpin – oh, wait, no that’s not what he’s called here…eh, too lazy to look it up, so it’s The Kingpin, only skinny, and his nerdy son – played by McLovin who has somehow managed to keep falling into roles that work well within his wheelhouse of ‘lispy, whiny bully-target’.  McLovin wants his old man’s respect, and to eventually inherit his giant mafia, so he goes undercover as another new superhero, Red Mist (whose primary super-ability is ‘owns a pimped-out car’) and befriends Kick-Ass in order to trap him for his father.  Eh, the whole thing is pretty average.   

EXCEPT.  Three things pull this movie out of the ‘forgettable’ category, and two of them – TWO OF THEM – involve Nicholas Cage.  You can still surprise me with your occasional awesome-out-of-nowhere talents, Weird Hair, and I will give credit where credit is due.  All whilst Kick-Ass is getting props and accolades, Cage plays an ex-cop who was framed by The Kingpin years ago, put in jail, and had his pregnant wife OD (with the baby surviving)….now, Cage and his daughter are REALLY vigilantes, and Kick-Ass is sorta bringing the whole profession some unwanted publicity.  See, Big Daddy (the ‘Cage as Batman’ character) has been quietly tearing apart the crime organization without anyone inside buying that there’s ‘a guy who looks like Batman’ setting up the crew to tear themselves apart, and now that Kick-Ass exists, KP needs to take out all the heroes.    

Point one of awesome:  Cage is fantastic as Big Daddy – a man who is stark-raving-insane, but in a disturbingly calm manner, driven by vengeance.  He’s not a millionaire like Bruce Wayne – no, he pays for his gadgets and toys the way his job dictates he needs to:  he just takes all the drug and weapon money from the criminals and keeps it.  And, in a rare moment of Cage genius, he talks exactly like Adam West (TV’s Batman from the 60s) whenever he has the costume on.  Also, for the first time in a decade, he doesn’t have a ridiculous looking wig.   

Point two of awesomeness:  Nonetheless, Nic Cage gets fully lit on fire.  Even though I liked him in this, this was satisfying for all the time wasted in dozens of other craptaculars he’s starred in that others try to convince me are good.  Thank you for this.   

And Point Three:  Hit Girl.  Hit Girl gets a 7 out of 7 – Chloe Moretz plays Big Daddy’s daughter, who has been raised by a lunatic bent on revenge, and she is phenomenal.  With the vocabulary of a longshoreman and a scary-creepy steely glare, Moretz is a pint-sized ass-beating machine, and while I thought it would get disturbing, it doesn’t.  Fantastic character, outstanding performance.  My only regret is she doesn’t kill Kick-Ass for being a complete moron by the end.    

Kick-Ass is vivid, ultra-violent and mostly ‘just okay’.  I’d give it a 4, but Moretz and Cage are worth the watch, so I go 5 out of 7.  But barely   

The Losers (2010) : Also in the world of ‘What If’ stories from the world of comics – a little under a decade ago, writer Andy Diggle and artist Jock asked the question ‘what if The A-Team was half-way realistic?’ and created a good little book called The Losers.  There’s not much more to the story than that – 5 Special Forces guys get framed for an international incident, fake their deaths, and then come back to wreak hell on the guy that framed them.  Honestly, much better as a serious action film than the A-Team series ever was.   

This is a great cast, Jeffery Dean Morgan (who I love in all things action and/or serious and vehemently hate in ‘light’ movies) as the leader Clay (Hannibal), Idris Elba as his right hand Roque (B.A.), Chris Evans as the smart-assed tech-guy Jensen (sort of a combo of Face and Murdock) and then two extra guys – the family man Pooch, and the silent sniper Cougar.    

There’s nothing revolutionary in here – it’s just a solid, smarter-than-most action movie.  The effects are good, and not particularly hyperbolic or overdone (until maybe the end, but that’s sort of expected, isn’t it?).  There’s a female character who isn’t particularly well-developed – she’s mysterious, and the reason the team gets a shot at vengeance, but she’s mostly just a catalyst to get things moving.  The villain is played by Jason Patric, who I didn’t recognize, and he keeps crossing the line back-and-forth between ‘kinda funny’ and ‘irritatingly eccentric’.   

This isn’t perfect – there’s a lot of bizarre and distracting editing choices throughout that on a couple of occassions made me fear it was about to transform into a Duran Duran video.  There’s also a really weird sex-and-fighting scene in the middle of a burning hotel room that I think was inserted for titillation purposes, but comes off more ‘disturbing’….all in all though, JDM and Elba in the leads are infinitely watchable.  The Losers won’t change your life,  or even make you remember you saw it in five years, but it’s a decent shoot-em-up and a strong 5 out of 7.   

Cop Out (2010):  Then there’s this.  I’m not sure what this is.  Other than a bizarre experiment in ‘open-source filmmaking’, maybe.  I think it’s supposed to be a comedy, but then part of me thinks it’s an action picture, then part of me thinks it’s a buddy-cop movie, then part of me thinks it’s tired of trying to figure it out and goes out and eats tacos.  That last part is one that wins.   

The sad part is, I like all four of the primaries on this mission:  Bruce Willis, Tracy Morgan, Sean William Scott and director Kevin Smith.  It just doesn’t seem that any of them were working off the same script, ever.  Willis spends most of the movie primarily doing his John McClane character, Morgan – a guy who is ‘outrageous’ – is ‘outrageous’ as ‘the goofy cop’, Sean William Scott just shows up for a bit part that goes WAY long and is centered around one joke – and that joke is: ‘it’s annoying when people repeat what you say’ – brilliant, right? –  and Kevin Smith may or may not have actually shown up on the set.   

Seriously.  I get that Smith’s brand of vulgar humor and random-funny-can-happen-all-around isn’t for everybody, but he generally puts out something that maintains a consistent pace and tone.  This is just a mess, and one thrown on top of the flimsiest of framework.  Here’s your plot:  these two renegade cops get suspended for being ‘over the line’, but then McClane gets a rare baseball card stolen from him by Sean William Scott which Die Hard needed to sell in order to pay for his daughter’s wedding so that dickhead rich step-dad Jason Lee doesn’t pay for it and get credit.  Meanwhile, Crazy Tracy thinks his wife is cheating on him.  This all revolves around a Mexican drug cartel.   

W.  T.  F.   

Look, there’s one hilarious scene at the very beginning when Tracy Morgan interrogates a suspect using nothing but movie quotes.  And a lot of them.  It felt stupid at first, but the longer it goes on, and the more arcane the reference, the more it works.  Good show….but after that, well….   

Here, this’ll make your decision easy.  Look at the picture  to the right.   

Gauge your reaction:   

a) HA HA HA!  LOOK AT THAT CRAZY TRACY MORGAN DRESSED LIKE A MOTHERF-ING CELL PHONE!  HE’S CRAZY!!!  HAHAHAHA!  Then this might be a fine selection for your evening.   

b) Why is Tracy Morgan dressed like a Jitterbug phone?  And can somebody get Bruce a water already?  Does he have an appointment to get to or something? Do cops still really file everything in file boxes?  Computers have been around for decades now, right?  And why is that such a bright blue?  Does that mean those files are for sex crimes or maybe Smurf-related felonies? And what’s with that 1978 typewriter?  Is that for detail?  Is this set in the 70s?  No, wait it can’t be, then the cell phone doesn’t make sense…wait, why is Tracy Morgan dressed like a Jitterbug again?  Then you’re in my camp.    

And my camp gives this a 2 out of 7.  It’s not particularly offensive to my senses, but I expect more from all four of the headliners here, way more.   

Daybreakers (2009) Let’s start with the positives:   

First, the set-work and scenery in this futuristic vampire flick are really gorgeous to look at.   

Second, the vampires in here – both the ‘educated and refined’ ones, and the ‘feral, needs bloods to eats NOW’ ones look really fierce and effective.   

Third, look at this poster.  That is a great looking poster.  That poster totally makes Daybreakers look completely like something I will see, and then buy on DVD and watch three times a year, and then eventually buy the poster of and hang in my office so I can think about how cool Daybreakers is.   

But that’s the thing about posters.  Posters lie.   

‘Take The Matrix and 28 Days Later and you’ve got Daybreakers‘.  Filthy, dirty lie.   

‘Take the confusion and unneccessary plot complications of The Matrix: Reloaded combined with the angst and painful feeling you had watching Sandra Bullock play an alcoholic in the overacted 28 Days and you have an idea of how you’ll feel after watching Daybreakers‘.  True.   

Great story idea:  It’s the future, and the world, or ‘us’, are now primarily vampires.  Maybe it’s a 95 vamp/5 human split at this point.  Problem:  ‘We’ the vamps, are running out of food (the humans – who we have been farming and harvesting like cows for decades), so what now?   

This crap’s answer?  Throw Ethan Hawke at it.  Yeesh.  Here’s the thing, Ethan, I don’t hate you.  You’re just not very interesting, ever, no matter how many poetry books you release on an unsuspecting public.  Another thing: it’s been sixteen years since Reality Bites: it’s time for a nice new hairstyle, one that doesn’t seem like it’s about to go mullet if you look to the right quickly.  Also, stop growing back that weird mustache/chin fuzz thing you have:  it’s never coming in, and you look like a guy that’s spent his life going to so many Soundgarden shows that you think the band are your actual friends, which makes the restraining order from Chris Cornell so hard to understand.   

I know, I want to mangle Ethan Hawke too, buddy.

 

Anyhow, Hawke plays a vampire blood researcher who is working on a blood substitute that vamps can drink instead of the actual thing, only everything they’ve tried makes vampires explode.  Deep down, though, he doesn’t agree with consuming human blood in the first place – he gets by on pig blood – because he finds it immoral.  So he is using science to try to find a solution that works for everybody.  A lot of science.  Science focusing on the intricacies of vampire blood.  Which isn’t real.  So it’s a lot of dull sciencing-time based off of horseshit, which is not entertaining.  That’s like going to college and finding out at the end that instead of a marketable degree you get a Post-It Note that says ‘Dun Good’.   

Of course, Hawke gets abducted by the human resistance where he meets a not-surprisingly-uninteresting Willem DaFoe (apparently cast so to try to make Hawke seem captivating by comparison), who is a former vampire who got lit on fire once and turned back human.  Or something.  I don’t know, it was hard to stay awake with all the scenes involving Hawke and DaFoe talking….seriously, you could not have gotten a more lethal combination of dullness than those two.  Stick to supporting roles, fellas, you’re best off there not drawing attention to your inability to draw attention.    

Then there’s more science – although this time, involving Ethan Hawke being set ablaze numerous times, which I do have to admit looked cool.  Finally, he goes human, and goes back to his old work to turn his jerk of a boss (Sam Neill) back to a human so he’ll have to agree that humans are better, I think.  Neill’s pretty good as the blood company’s Steve Jobs, who’s keeping the world in his control through the evil machinations of supply and demand, but it’s not near enough.   

The worst part about this is it’s completely not fun – Daybreakers takes itself seriously throughout the whole thing, like it has a point to make or something.  Look, sci-fi can accomplish that kind of allegorical lesson-learning once in a while. District 9 had a great take on race relations, for example, as did Enemy Mine – but you have to pick one lesson and teach it.    

I have no idea what the hell Daybreakers is trying to comment on; for a while, I thought it was a race-relations thing, but then it seemed to be anti-corporations, then it flips over to implications of the evils of modern food processing, then it seems about big ecology, or possibly socialism.  Good god, man, just blow up some more freaking vampires with your explosive crossbow bolts already, your talking is making my head hurt.   

A mess of movie inside of a pretty wrapper, Daybreakers gets a 2 out of 7.

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