Kick-Ass 2 Review (Kirk Haviland)

kick_ass_2-wideStarting this weekend in theaters from Universal Studios is the eagerly awaited sequel to the 2010 cult film that hit large on home video, Kick-Ass 2. This time around the film is under the reigns of writer/director Jeff Wadlow and only produced by the original’s director Matthew Vaughn. The graphic novel sequel to Kick-Ass, Kick-Ass 2: Balls to the Wall, is a veritable blood bath, which beckons the question of how the film will translate to the theater screen.

Kick-Ass 2

Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Donald Faison, Lindy Booth, John Leguizamo, Morris Chestnut, Clark Duke, Augustus Prew, Olga Kurkulina and Jim Carrey.

Written and Directed by Jeff Wadlow

kick-ass-2-imageWhen we last saw junior assassin Hit Girl (Moretz) and young masked hero Kick-Ass (Taylor-Johnson), they were trying to live as normal teenagers Mindy and Dave.  With graduation looming and uncertain what to do with their shared calling, Dave decides to start the world’s first superhero team with Mindy.  Unfortunately, when Mindy is busted for sneaking out as Hit Girl, she’s forced to retire, leaving her to navigate the terrifying world of high-school mean girls on her own.  With no one left to turn to, Dave joins forces with Justice Forever, run by a born-again ex-mobster named Colonel Stars and Stripes (Carrey). Just as they start to make a real difference on the streets the rechristened Red Mist, now the self-proclaimed super-villain The Motherfucker (Mintz-Plasse) assembles his own evil league and puts a plan in motion to make Kick-Ass and Hit Girl pay for what they did to his dad.

kick_ass_2Kick-Ass 2 tries to recapture the magic of the first film but never quite gets there. Johnson is good back in Kick Ass mode, though the goofiness that his original performance carried due to his inability to fight and gangly awkwardness is gone with a buff and trained Dave this time around. Moretz does what she can but is wasted and handcuffed with a terrible subplot this time around. Jim Carrey has little more than a glorified cameo, but his Col Stars and Stripes is a great characterization, a born again Christian version of Rambo, and is sorely missed after his departure. But the best performance comes from Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the newly rechristened ‘Motherfucker’ who discovers after getting beaten up multiple times that his evil villain superpower is that he has tons of money. Motherfucker plays out as an unhinged yet scrawny and spoiled brat and Mintz-Plasse is enjoying the hell out of it.

kick-ass-2-aaron-johnson-christopher-mintz-plasseThe biggest issue that Kick Ass 2 runs into is that it doesn’t stick with a tone for the film which results in an uneven film that can’t decide whether it is a dark comic action picture or a light awkward teen comedy. Two years have passed between the first film and Dave is a high school senior while Mindy is now a 15 year old sophomore in the same school (up to a 4 year difference between her age from the first film as she is a 11 year old in the comic book but her age is not 100% clear in the first film). This level of creative scripting allows the film to bring a level of sexual tension between Dave and Mindy that never works and has an extremely lackluster payoff. In fact Moretz has been done a great disservice in this second film. Her Mindy is crammed into an unoriginal “Mean Girls” subplot that never fits the darker tone of the rest of the film and leads to one of the most moronic sequences involving a “weapon” on film this year. The sequence feels straight out of a “Jackass” film as Johnny Knoxville and crew would have a lot more fun with this tool. The final act is a blood bath with an all-out brawl at the center of it and the scene stealing Mother Russia (Kurkulina) and Hit Girl going blow for blow. Kick-Ass renews fisticuffs with Motherfucker in an anticlimactic fight that lacks all the charm that their final fight from the first film packs in.

new-kick-ass-2-featurette-teases-hit-girl-vs-mother-russia-watch-now-142530-a-1376375797-470-75Despite its faults, fans of the original Kick-Ass will find enough to latch onto here to enjoy the film. It’s nowhere near as inspired as the original film was and never finds the right balance between comedy and violence that Matthew Vaughn so adeptly straddled, but the characters are a welcome return and Hit Girl in whatever truncated version we may get is still better than no Hit Girl at all. Kick-Ass 2 is a mild recommend.

Till Next Time

Movie Junkie TO

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ParaNorman DVD Review (Kirk Haviland)

ParaNorman DVD

Starring the voices of Cody Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman

Written by Chris Butler

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

New this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Alliance Films is the stop motion animated wonder, from the same studio that brought us Henry Selick’s Coraline, which scared up some decent box office this summer, ParaNorman. Directors Chris Butler and Sam Fell bring us the story of a boy with the gift to talk to the deceased and a mission to fulfill. So what does the DVD have in store for us?

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an awkward child with an extraordinary gift, he can see and converse with ghosts. Norman regularly converses with his dead grandmother, much to the exasperation of his incredulous father (Garlin), mother (Mann) and his sister Courtney (Kendrick). An outcast at school, Norman is constantly tormented by Alvin (Mintz-Plasse) and his cronies, and is constantly made fun of over his gift. But when the anniversary of a heinous act in his town’s history approaches, Norman’s estranged Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) tracks him down as Norman must take over his role in order to save the day. But when all hell breaks loose it’s up to Norman, his friend Neil (Albrizzi), Neil’s hulking brother Mitch (Affleck), Courtney and Alvin to save the day and put everything right.

ParaNorman is a film that actually works even better at home. It remains a smart film that doesn’t pander to the audience while never getting scary enough to truly frighten its target audience. The script is smart with the more adult targeted humor playing better on the small screen. The story does borrow from films like the Sixth Sense quite a bit, but the endearingness of Norman and his friends more than compensates for some of the more familiar story beats.  The animation style works extremely well and the stop-motion is fantastic. It does not try to be anywhere near photo-realistic thankfully and I found it very reminiscent of the old Rankin/Bass TV specials I grew up on and still watch around Christmas every year. Directors Butler and Fell keep the film tightly paced and on target as it clocks in at a satisfying 93 minutes. The actors performing the voice work all work well here, especially our leads Norman and Neil along with Norman’s perfectly casted parents. Kendrick’s work as Courtney is really solid here as well, as the nuances of her character play better on the small screen.

The DVD is packed with a ton of great features to check out as they really go deep behinds the scenes and into all aspects of the production. We get a feature length commentary track going into all aspects of the filming with Directors Butler and Fell along with some pre-visual animatic sequences used for the filming. At around 40 minutes in total, the multi segmented Behind the Scenes package “Peering through the Veil” is full of informative and fun facts. And if that weren’t enough there are 7 additional featurettes covering other aspects of the film. A great pack for adult and child alike.

Sure to be present under many a Christmas tree this year, if you can hold out that long, ParaNorman is a treat and delight for the entire family. Loaded with special features and featuring a brilliant crisp and clean digital transfer, the DVD really becomes a can’t lose package. Based on this, ParaNorman on DVD is a must buy DVD and will be a fun holiday watch for the whole family.

You can read my original ParaNorman review HERE

Also Noteworthy : Rise of the Guardians Review  and Wolf Children Review

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films, festivals and film related events in Toronto.

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Email me at moviejunkieto@gmail.com

ParaNorman Review (Kirk Haviland)

ParaNorman (2012)

Starring the voices of Cody Smit-McPhee, Tucker Albrizzi, Anna Kendrick, Casey Affleck, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Leslie Mann, Jeff Garlin and John Goodman

Written by Chris Butler

Directed by Chris Butler and Sam Fell

From the same studio that brought us Henry Selick’s Coraline we get a new stop-motion animated film also dealing with the slightly macabre, ParaNorman. From directors Chris Butler, storyboard artist on Coraline, and Sam Fell, director of Tale of Despereaux and Flushed Away, comes the story of a boy with the gift to talk to the deceased and a mission to fulfill. But can these two directors live up to the brilliance that was Coraline?

Norman Babcock (Smit-McPhee) is an awkward child with an extraordinary gift, he can see and converse with ghosts. Norman regularly converses with his dead grandmother, much to the exasperation of his incredulous father (Garlin), mother (Mann) and his sister Courtney (Kendrick). An outcast at school, Norman is constantly tormented by Alvin (Mintz-Plasse) and his cronies, and is constantly made fun of over his gift. But when the anniversary of a heinous act in his town’s history approaches, Norman’s estranged Uncle Prenderghast (Goodman) tracks him down as Norman must take over his duty and read from a sacred book in order to save the day. Unfortunately, due to a run-in with Alvin, Norman is late and all hell breaks loose. It’s up to Norman, with the help of his friend Neil (Albrizzi), Neil’s hulking brother Mitch (Affleck), Courtney and Alvin, to save the day and put everything right.

ParaNorman works on almost every level. A smart film and script that doesn’t pander to the audience and also never gets too scary that it might frighten its target audience. The animation style works extremely well and the stop-motion is fantastic, not trying to be anywhere near photo realistic and reminiscent of old Rankin/Bass TV specials, allowing for the fact that it is a classically animated film to shine through. The story is solid, containing many of asides for the adults while remaining completely accessible for kids, although it may not be completely unoriginal with equal parts Sixth Sense and Scooby Doo mixed in. Directors Butler and Fell keep the film tightly paced and on target as it clocks in at a satisfying 93 minutes. The actors performing the voice work all work well here, especially our leads Norman and Neil along with Norman’s perfectly casted parents. The screening I saw of the film was full of youngsters of all ages, some I had pegged no older than 5, and they all were pretty quietly and intently focused on the film throughout, a good sign that they thoroughly enjoyed themselves. In fact, my friend’s son triumphantly declared after the screening that ParaNorman was better than Dark Knight Rises, high praise indeed.

ParaNorman is fun for all ages and for my money the best family entertainment out there at the moment. ParaNorman is a very strong recommend.

ParaNorman is in theaters nationwide starting Friday August 17th.

Till Next Time,

Movie Junkie TO

Make sure to keep up with what’s going on at Entertainment Maven by liking our Facebook page and having updates delivered right to your Facebook News Feed. It’s the only way to stay on top of all of our articles with the newest blockbusters and all the upcoming films and festivals in Toronto.

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