When you think about the serial nature of comic books and the virtually limitless stream of new stories published each month, big-screen sequels in this genre should be a slam-dunk, right? Unfortunately, Kick-Ass 2 loses its way; its themes becoming at once muddled and more clichéd. High-schooler/hero Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is upping his crime-fighting game under the tutelage of 15-year-old Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), who soon faces her own identity crisis. Inspired by the duo’s exploits, an all-new team of masked heroes has assembled, just as the vengeful son of a dead mob boss begins recruiting his own evil army, and a showdown is inevitable.
Thorin, heir to the dwarf throne, is on a quest to reclaim his homeland and unite his people. But to do so, he’ll need to survive an onslaught of murderous Orcs, steal a vital stone back from an insanely powerful talking dragon, and overcome all manner of treachery along the way. Fortunately, he makes new allies in his travels, but while there’s certainly no shortage of characters in this middle chapter of Tolkien’s Middle-Earth epic, it dawned on me that none of them are especially compelling. With their numbers growing, we don’t really have the chance to get to know any of them.
Patently rejecting the notion that brevity is the soul of wit, IaMMMMW is Hollywood’s first (and last?) “epic comedy,” clocking in at two hours and 24 minutes in its popular version. Just about every A-list comedy actor of the era is involved in this sprawling tale of some everyday folk who drop everything for an unplanned dash to find a deceased criminal’s buried loot.
Michael Mann’s feature film directing debut, this rough-hewn caper drama fairly throbs with energy, thanks in large part to the inspired use of a Tangerine Dream musical score. Criminal or not, Frank (James Caan) is pretty difficult to like, but he’s a total professional, so naturally the Chicago mob wants to own him. They underestimated Frank, however, and his rage erupts stylishly in this unrated director’s cut.
In 2009, one of the kings of quirky dramedy, Wes Anderson, managed to surprise us again with a star-studded, fully stop-motion-animated adaptation of Roald Dahl’s deliciously absurd Fantastic Mr. Fox. This laid-back bad boy has settled down with his wife and pup, but can a fox ever really change his nature?
Director Abdellatif Kechiche has crafted an engaging, truthful tale of unexpected and tempestuous romance between two young women. At three hours, it explores these characters and their relationship in extraordinary, almost excessive detail, so be warned. The graphic lovemaking scenes have garnered something of a reputation for Blue Is the Warmest Color, but they are in service to a powerful story of wild emotion. Despite dozens of international awards, including the top prize at Cannes, this one was hard to find in theaters here in the States, so this Blu-ray is especially welcome.
Fasten your seat belts for the fastest thrill ride of 2013! Ron Howard’s best film since A Beautiful Mind chronicles Formula One during the mid-’70s—the deadliest era for one of the world’s deadliest sports—and dramatizes the true story of champions James Hunt (Chris Hemsworth) and Niki Lauda (Daniel Brühl), whose rivalry mirrored Frazier/Ali and Borg/McEnroe. Peter Morgan’s screenplay evenhandedly illuminates the destructive and empowering aspects of their competition. Hemsworth and Brühl channel two genius drivers with divergent personalities: Hunt, the cavalier, reckless playboy versus serious, disciplined Lauda, whose obsession with besting Hunt culminates in a crescendo of flames that nearly kills him.
Bearing the lofty Jackass mantle, this feature film eschews the basic format of the erstwhile MTV series, which bombarded viewers with a string of standalone stunts and running jokes performed by a brave troupe with a high tolerance for pain. Instead, Bad Grandpa emulates the Borat model, crafting a basic plot and characters as a scripted backdrop for multiple outrageous set pieces that unfold before unsuspecting bystanders.
High on the list of stars needing a good movie under their belt we would find the beleaguered Mr. Schwarzenegger. His box office clout was waning, then he spent many years away from show business to run California. At one point his most promising comeback vehicle seemed to be a bizarre "Governator" cartoon, and then it all came crashing down amid a horrible public scandal. But could he still hold his own on the big screen if he wanted to?
There are many reasons to enjoy RoboCop, still beloved (and now remade) after 27 years. If you don’t like the brilliantly executed action, there’s the biting statement about ’80s greed in America. If you don’t appreciate the scathing satire, there’s the poignant struggle of a good man trying to regain his identity.