Screened Out: Battles of life and death

Screened Out: Battles of life and death

StephenMillerHeadshot_560873495.jpgKick Ass
(Starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse)
This movie sure has the right title. Its premise—that of a geeky, ill-equipped teenager trying to be a superhero—is a blast. The sardonic tone is pitch-perfect. The elaborate comic-book violence is awesome. Even the 11-year-old, potty-mouthed girl who plays the pint-sized powerhouse Hit Girl is…well…kickass.

SOKickAss_483878574.jpgJohnson is a supergeek who decides to become a superhero. He orders a colorful wetsuit on the internet and somewhat trains himself to fight crime. It’s a good thing this moron quickly runs into Big Daddy (Cage) and his daughter Hit Girl (Moretz). She’s been trained by her bitter papa; she’s part ninja, part Navy SEAL, and all-out badass. Soon, they’re taking on the local drug kingpin (Strong of Sherlock Holmes) and his wimpy, wannabe son (Mintz-Plasse of Superbad).

If done well, this flick would easily be four-star material. There are several things that raise the bar. Kick Ass alternately mocks and pays homage to its comic sources Batman and Spidey. The humor is well-peppered throughout, never forcing any unwanted seriousness. The elaborate fight choreography and extensive violence (some against Hit Girl) are rendered with gory, Tarantino-esque glee. Finally, Hit Girl—a cute tweener who frequently drops the F-bomb—is a violent, joyful character you won’t soon forget.

It’s one thing for a comic-book flick to match your expectations. It’s another thing when it blows them out of the water. Kick Ass doesn’t have any deep meaning or message (thankfully); this movie’s secret weapon is excessive, adrenaline-fueled entertainment.

Death at a Funeral
(Starring Chris Rock, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, James Marsden, Zoe Saldana, Danny Glover)
There are plenty of off-kilter, tasteless yucks in this American remake of the dark 2007 British comedy. The direction by Neil LaBute (In the Company of Men) is a little tighter and funnier. However, this basic farce still misses opportunities to create a whiz-bang ending.
Chris Rock is an LA accountant and struggling author who is planning his dad’s funeral. His slick slacker brother (Lawrence) is already a famous author. Other family members, like neurotic cousin Morgan and cantankerous uncle Glover, come to give their respects. So does dad’s undercover lover. The coffin goes missing. People take illegal drugs and get naked. Others kidnap and try to kill each other. Finally, poor Morgan gets poo in his mouth.
It’s pretty funny stuff.LaBute uses his all-star lineup to excellent effect—especially the outsider Marsden.

What doesn’t work here is the clunky plot. A great farce keeps adding complications until everything comes to a hilarious and elaborate climax. Death ebbs and flows, sometimes seeming to reach a peak, only to die off and start setting itself up for the next round of corpse-oriented schtick. It makes the ending a little…well, dead.

(Documentary directed by Jacques Perrin and Jacques Cluzaud)
Shocking visuals and a constant, sweeping score buoy Disney’s newest Earth Day offering. This lovely documentary is a timely and deeply emotional film about our oceans, their inhabitants, and the dangers we all face.

Pierce Brosnan narrates with a rich, Celtic lilt. Brilliant composer Bruno Coulais floods each nook and cranny with a pastiche of world music. Filmographers Perrin and Cluzaud quickly dive beneath the surface to surprise and hypnotize us with simply unbelievable images; you’ll keep asking yourself, “But how’d they do that?!” Furthermore, the directors cull from so many different sources—wait till you see all the credits! It must have been a gargantuan effort to secure unique, breathtaking shot after shot. Organizing all this martial into an affecting 90-minute film is a miracle unto itself.

There isn’t a lot of structure to the film; it skips from tropic waters to the arctic climes at the mere whim of showing us the next amazing thing. Oceans also chooses not to completely inundate with messages of ecology and sustainability.

Instead the film floats from scenes of elegiac beauty to ones of sheer heart-thumping wonder. Wait till you see whales asleep, their noses mere feet from the ocean floor. You’ll never believe how peaceful swimming with sharks could look. Finally, there is a feeding frenzy involving birds, sharks, whales and an unfortunate school of shad. It may actually be one of the best movie action sequences you’ll ever see.


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