Thursday, April 29, 2010

Movie Review: Kick Ass

To listen to the radio version, please click here.

How many grandparents dragged their grandkids out of “KickAss” within the first 20 minutes when they realized this kid’s movie about kids playing superhero is really not kid’s movie at all. Oh sure, it’s got an ‘R’ rating, but I’ve seen way to many toddlers at R movies, with their grandparents, to think that keeps the little ones out. So I want to be clear – do NOT bring your children to see “Kick Ass”. They will forever be warped, their brain chemistry will change. They’ll want to dress up in a green SCUBA suit and try to beat up drug dealers and get themselves put into an ER unit – JUST LIKE THE MOVIE. (I know I did). For this is an insane film. Not clinically insane, not pejoratively insane, but the good kind of insane: wacky, out there, left field, original. Yeah, if at last I’ve seen an original comic book film, this is the one.

So, if you can leave your children and sensibilities behind, this is a thoroughly fantastic film. I don’t believe I’ve been this entertained since “District 9” and “Inglorious Basterds”. Really. “Kick Ass” is unexpectedly, inexplicably good. I should be so offended by this film: the endangerment of children, the vigilantism, the ultra, ultra violence, blood freakin’ everywhere, giant microwaves, Nicolas Cage, and awful stereotypes. Then they’re all taken en masse, spun on their heads, and up pops a sincere moment of tenderness, a clever bit of kind humor, romantic love, and of all things, a story of dad and daughter taking on a hostile world. In short, by the third act you care about the characters. And if I care, then I love a film – even if the daddy and daughter I care about take on the hostile world with creative knife work and shooting the bad guys in the head.

If you’re looking for morals, they ran screaming toward the exits with the grandparents.

And oh what a third act. If along the way, you thought, this movie may be the craziest thing you have ever seen, two kids proceed to … well, you’ll just have to see it. It reminded me of a John Woo film like “Face/Off” where there’a slow motion gun ballet, bodies flying, birds flying off to nowhere for no reason, a dissonant song underplaying the action like “twinkle twinkle little star”, bad guys in suits, good guys in capes, and a whole lot of paper and junk floating around. A visual feast of violent chaos and somehow it is both bloody and beautiful.

And completely messes with your head.

Clearly, “Kick Ass” is not, and isn’t meant to be, for everyone. It is, I kid you not, a coming sign of the Apocalypse. But if I were you, go see it, and just don’t tell anybody, except maybe your priest. “Kick Ass” will be playing this weekend at Gross Alaska Glacier Cinema in the Valley. This is Clint Farr, concerned for his soul, and Alone at the Movies.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Movie Review: Date Night

To listen to the radio version, please click here.

I don’t know if I like “Date Night” because it was good, or because my wife and I could have been the couple depicted in the film. This film aims squarely at the professional married couple, in their late thirties or forties, both working, who have young kids (because they waited to have kids until they owned a house), who love each other very much, who – perhaps - long for some of the fire and freedom of their early courtship, and who are tired. Very tired. As Phil and Claire Foster, played by Steve Carell and Tina Fey, are pummeled by their children at 5:30 in the morning, Phil mutters “And it begins”. Heck. That could’ve been this morning.

Now, given the movie’s title, it’s no surprise the plot takes off during a “Date Night” where they leave the kids with a sitter and go have salmon and potato skins at the same restauran. In an effort to mix things up, to bring a little spark the latent coals of their desire, Phil takes Claire to a fancy Manhattan restaurant where they tell a lie to get a seat. A case of mistaken identity follows leading to a series of chases, fights, gunfights, encounters with a shirtless Marc Wahlberg, and mild hilarity.

Tina Fey and Steve Carell in a shoot ‘em up?! Well, yes. Does it work? Well, sort of

It works, sort of, because Tina Fey and Steve Carrell are not only funny actors but good. Sure they have ticks like Steve’s funny voices and Tina’s sideways glances, but they’re both watchable and believable. What more do you want from actors in a rambunctious action slash comedy? That said, the actors are clearly more comfortable in their comic back and forth than in the running, diving, driving, and ducking bullets. Plus the subplot that drives the action is never well developed, and, frankly, stupid. So the thriller aspects of this film never really thrill you. Ronin, this movie is not.

But I love Tina Fey. She’s smart and funny. Steve Carell is great too. The two look like they could actually be married, rare for a movie couple, and both look their age. There’s an underlying intelligence to their interactions that should have been showcased even more. For instance, in a bit when the two pose as a stripper and pimp, Tina Fey has a hard time finding an outfit to cover her cesarean scar. It’s one of the funny parts in a rather low point in the film, in part because it felt real. How do you cover your cesarean scar when putting on a hoochie mama dress? I felt a tinge of sympathy as these characters faced their age. It was a poignant moment and hinted at the better movie this could’ve been.

So, the film is watchable solely based on the talents of Ms. Fey and Mr. Carrel. I’m disappointed. These two deserve a better movie and I hope they team up again.

Anyway, if you’re married, and it is date night, and the kids are healthy, and you’re not too exhausted, and you can find a sitter, and there’s no dance recital or soccer game, and there’s no ski or Spanish lessons in the morning, and you want to see a movie, this one will resonate with you. If you are young, single, without kids, get to sleep in, stay out late, party, and work out regularly, well, I hate you.

Um, “Date Night” is playing this weekend at Gross Alaska Cinema in the Valley. This is Clint Farr, Alone at the Movies.