Tuesday, 6 May 2014


Tuesday, 6 May 2014
★★½ (out of five)

It can't help feel inferior to the first KICK-ASS, for a number of fairly obvious reasons. The thrill of the 'real life superheroes' concept has dimmed, foul-mouthed whirligig Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) has aged, and the director of NEVER BACK DOWN has taken over from the director of X-MEN: FIRST CLASS.

However, that's not to say KICK-ASS 2 doesn't have some merit and managed to find form once the storyline fully engaged and entertainment was derived from watching colourfully-attired youngsters smack each other around the head. There's even a fun sub-plot where Hit-Girl attempts to live a normal high school life as her "alter ego" Mindy McCready (winning acclaim as a cheerleader thanks to her secret fighting skills, only to wind up bullied by the resident 'mean girls'--in a loose echo of Moretz's role in the subsequent CARRIE remake). Moretz was the stand-out of KICK-ASS and it's no surprise she's the best thing about this sequel, even if the subversive thrill of hearing a 13-year-old use the "c word" can never be equalled now she's sweet 16.

The plot's pretty unremarkable and felt slow to get going, perhaps because KICK-ASS 2's assembled from ideas and themes rather than a worthwhile story. It's all about choosing your identity in this world, and deciding who you want to be—even if the answer's something others won't tolerate. Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) joins a Justice League-style group of superheroes, known as Justice Forever, led by former mob enforcer Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), but can't get Hit-Girl to join now she's turned over a new leaf. Meanwhile, arch-enemy Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) has re-branded himself as The Motherfucker, using his dead mother's S&M gear, and is out for vengeance against the superhero who killed his father... by assembling a gang of super-villains.

KICK-ASS 2 follows the rules of most sequels to the letter—doing more, if not not necessarily doing better. There are dozens of costumed heroes and outrageous characters (such as hulking female body-builder Mother Russia), but also a greater sense of desperation to proceedings. It occasionally felt like a straight-to-video sequel, despite having exactly the same budget (£28m) as its predecessor, and I think a lot of that's due to director Jeff Wadlow being less skilled than Matthew Vaughn. KICK ASS 2 only made $59m worldwide, compared to the original's $96m, so who knows if a KICK-ASS 3 is on the cards. The source material's available in comic-book form already, but here it felt like Taylor-Johnson couldn't care less and Moretz only returned out of loyalty to her breakout role. Hit-Girl pushing 20 would be even less provocative.

It sounds like I'm pretty down on KICK-ASS 2, but it was enjoyable and could have been far worse. It kept everything audiences liked about the first film in terms of violence and craziness, but just couldn't find a way to make any of it feel as raw and compelling as last time—perhaps because its bubble of 'semi-reality' burst and it became too much of a live-action comic-book this time around.

★★★½ (out of five)

There aren't many female buddy cop movies around, so it's a relief to find a good one with Paul Feig's THE HEAT—which comes with McKay/Apatow-flavoured dialogue from new writer Katie Dippold (this being a spec script she wrote). The unlikely double-act of Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy then seal the deal, as they're excellent together.

THE HEAT does have a tendency to dissolve into too much bickering between the pair, so the impetus of the plot got a little lost at times, and the arc for the lead characters is very clichéd, but I was entertained for most of its two-hours. This despite the film having such poor villains and a pretty weak first act, where McCarthy's character is just obnoxious and unlikeable. Luckily, some genuinely hilarious moments come along, the second half's a marked improvement, and the very '90s soundtrack is superb (really rocked my rear speakers in DTS).

★½ (out of five)

Final entry of a comedy trilogy that had no reason to exist, creatively. I wasn't a huge fan of THE HANGOVER, although at least the original had a premise that was fun and unusual. THE HANGOVER PART II remains the worst of the unlikely trio, mainly because it was a shameless copy with only a change of location.

THE HANGOVER PART III is more watchable than its predecessor, but it's also fairly unpleasant and doesn't even revolve around a mass hangover this time. I wouldn't mind that so much (it avoids the repetition issue of PART II), but the end credits "bonus scene" involves the characters awakening to another post-drinking nightmare... and it was the funniest moment of the whole film, and tees up a movie I'd have preferred to see.

In this adventure, the Wolf Pack are tasked with capturing Mr Chow (Ken Jeong) now he's escaped from a maximum-security prison and stolen half the gold belonging to a gangster called Marshall (John Goodman). It's up to Phil (Bradley Cooper), Stu (Ed Helms) and Alan (Zach Galifianakos) to find Chow and return the gold, or their always-absent buddy Doug (Justin Bartha) will be killed.

In making this final chapter more of a dark caper that returns to the Las Vegas stomping ground of the first, I enjoyed it more than the brainless Bangkok-set PART II, but these HANGOVER movies have outstayed their welcome. Somewhere along the way the status of the character dynamics took over the conversation and the studio thought the original film making $467m (from a $35m budget) was purely down to the three leads.

That's partly true, but what people liked was seeing those characters react to an outlandish situation many people have personal sympathy for. We all have a crazy drinking story or two, right? Stretching that formula out for another two movies was never going to work, although THE HANGOVER became a brand and continued to make millions (although I'm pleased there was a drop-off in profits, so a PART IV seems unlikely... although not impossible if any of he actor's careers go off-track).

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