Aisle of the Damned: 10/06/17- Nephews Who Photoshop

Umbrella ella ella ella

Kent and Bryan have a lot to complain about this episode, but does that include Matthew Vaughn’s Kingsman: The Golden Circle? They take a close look at the sequel to one of the most entertaining spy films of recent memory.

They also take a gander at new trailers from Wes Anderson and the Ex Machina guy, talk the extended TV cut of Superman, discuss comments from DC/WB’s big wigs regarding the continuity of their films and gripe about issues with Amazon’s recent turn in service.

All this and less on Aisle of the Damned!

Music:
The Aquabats- Stuck in a Movie
Save Ferris- Superspy

Aisle of the Damned: 02/22/16- Summer’s Earlier Every Year

Hi-yo Silver! Away!

Kent jaws about some films he’s seen including (but not limited to) Turbo Kid, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, Brooklyn, Kung Fu Panda 3 and a preview of The Brothers Grimsby. Then he and Bryan take a look at the slate of upcoming films through April. Honest, we hope Batman v Superman is somehow all just terrible marketing.

Music:
The Aquabats: Stuck in a Movie
Monty Python: Are You Embarrassed Easily?
DVDA: Now You’re a Man

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: X-Men: Days of Future Past

X-Men 5

We’re two for three in superhero movies so far this summer. Bryan Singer’s welcome return to the X-Men franchise is incredibly successful with Days of Future Past. I’m not sure that I can say I enjoyed it more than First Class, which I enjoyed initially and have liked even more with subsequent viewings, but between the two of them, the franchise has officially been rescued from the God-awful Last Stand and only slightly better Origins: Wolverine that were nearly the one-two punch that killed this cash cow. (Maybe I should have hoped for that so the characters could return to the Marvel fold, but we’ll let it go.)

Loosely adapted from one of the most popular stories that the characters have ever been involved in, it begins in an undisclosed future where mutants and many humans have been hunted down by the robotic Sentinels from the comic books. We get to see a few of the X-characters in this future that I honestly never believed would appear unless it was the kind of crap cameo that Brett Ratner relegated Psyclocke to. We get Blink, man. I am honestly flabbergasted about that one. And she is done well. (For those that don’t know, Blink is a popular mutant that creates portals. She seems depowered and decidedly non-lilac in this instance, but still.) It feels much less like the mutants of the film are getting short shrift here just to pack in as many as possible the way some of the lesser movies have done. In a departure from comic lore, Wolverine is sent back in time to stop the Sentinel program from ever being started. (In the comics, it was Kitty Pryde that did the honors, which I would have welcomed instead of getting yet another Wolverine-centric movie, but the bean counters at Fox apparently think only his bub-ness sells tickets, First Class to the contrary.)

It is a little surprising to me that Singer seems more at ease with the cast of First Class over the runtime than those of the original film since Matthew Vaughn was at the helm for that one. I guess maybe he was hands-on as a producer? In any case, aside from some clunky exposition that even Patrick Stewart can’t keep from sounding overdone (and he has a lot of experience with exposition from Star Trek) the movie gets going quickly and doesn’t stop often. It all comes out a bit Terminator-ish, but then Marvel beat Cameron to the punch by a couple of years so all’s fair.

The time-travel reset button is a brilliant thing to do on multiple fronts. Number one, it gives the people currently making the films a chance to eliminate all the horrible decisions made when Fox was in the mentality that the X-Men films a) needed to be forced into a trilogy, because that’s just how it’s done and b) needed to be crapped out as soon as possible in order to punish Bryan Singer for taking a job directing Superman Returns. I think making that movie was punishment enough. Number two, it allows the use of both the original characters and the new cast that earned the right to continue the series. Number three, it creates the possibility of doing two equally deserving continuities, one in the past and one in the present going forward. If this is Fox trying to play catch up with Marvel Studios, all I can say is bravo for doing it in an incredibly inventive and dramatically fulfilling way compared to Sony and their botched Spider-Man experiment.

Even though it is yet another movie with Wolverine front and center, we get to spend a lot of time with Charles (Professor X) and Erik (Magneto) in both timelines, and the film is all the better because of it. Their relationship is by far the most interesting part of this series and First Class made that painfully obvious. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender continue to be fantastic in their roles. At this point they own them just as much as Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan. Combine that with pretty meaty parts for Mystique and Beast and you have a much more rounded ensemble film than it could have been. They lucked out when they cast Jennifer Lawrence and they seem to know it, making her an integral part of the story. As per the aforementioned Blink and Kitty (Ellen Page, returning as one of the two good things from X3 worth saving), as well as other mutants like Iceman, Bishop and Storm, they aren’t really given much to do for an arc, but they’re well used enough in action sequences that they don’t feel like they’re given short shrift. Many others have glorified cameos, but nothing feels particularly forced.

The only other new characters to truly be of note are pretty much Evan Peters as Qucksilver and Peter Dinklage as Bolivar Trask. Both are excellent. For all the hubbub about Quicksilver appearing in both this film and the second Avengers film, I doubt there will be much similarity in the portrayals. In Future Past, Qucksilver, really only brought in for the purpose of one action scene, is less the abrasive speedster from the comics and is instead an carbon copy of DC Comics’ Impulse with a worse costume. An ADHD-riddled kid with bad hair and a penchant for being charmingly annoying. The action scene in question is possibly the most fun scene in the entire film, so it’s understandable that Singer was so hyped to use him.

Trask does horrible things in his quest to realize his dream of the Sentinels. He cautions that mutants will replace humans, citing Neanderthal man’s disappearance as a warning. (Of course he wouldn’t be privy to the current theory that Neanderthals actually interbred with cro-magnon.) We’re given glimpses of his life that indicate he’s a genius and he talks about doing a lot of good things for humanity. But it’s obvious he doesn’t see mutants as humanity, only as a means to an end. They don’t exactly subtle-up the Nazi metaphors. And just to make one statement about who would normally be one of the villains of the film, it was nice to see Richard Nixon portrayed as an actual human being and not a complete cartoon bad-guy for once. The government and the military aren’t shown to be evil or even necessarily in favor of wiping out mutants. They simply get used by Trask as more means to his end.

The movie is paced elegantly with never a dull moment, but also never being overwhelming. It feels like all of Singer’s superhero movie experience has been leading to this moment where he finally feels comfortable with all the things he was holding back on in the second film. (Having the brass at Fox on his side instead of demanding Jon Peters-esque changes on a whim it probably helps.) The action sequences feel fresh, despite several of them having a lot in common with previous installments which is a testament to their presentation and the quality of the effects. There is no question in my mind why this movie cost so much and it honestly seems worth every penny. It is polished and even the questionable CGI just makes it seem that much more comic book-y.

After seeing the teaser at the end which brought many a “What the hell?” from the crowd in our theater, I am very much looking forward to seeing what Singer, Vaughn and their cohorts bring to us next.

(Four damns given out of five)

Kent’s Damned Movie Reviews: Kick Ass 2

Hi-it Girl, Hi-it Girl, jumpin' round like a rabid squirrel...

“Well, that was better than the comic, anyway.”

So said my friend Nate as we left Kick Ass 2. At this point I’m pretty sure Mark Millar’s business card should say, “Comics that make decent movies in the hands of people with better story sense.”

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his Superman Adventures run as much as anyone, but looked at against their comic counterparts, his original ideas adapted to film (Wanted and Kick Ass, at least) have been improvements over their source material.

Kick Ass 2 picks up a few years after the original film and, aside from a couple of unsatisfyingly thrown aside threads left over from the first movie, it provides a comparable experience. It could also test my ability to continue to write PG-13 reviews given what exists within its frames.

The first was a pretty clear case of the trappings of exploitation cinema being grafted onto an existing genre template, in this case the superhero film. Slapping the excesses of violence and other “extremes” onto a storyline that was clearly inspired by the highly familiar Spider-Man films resulted in a movie that was a fun counterpoint to the family-friendly violence of the Marvel films. What the name for it is, I don’t know, but since everything has to end in “-sploitation” (nazploitation, nunsploitation, blaxploitation) I think I’ll go with capesploitation. Admittedly I haven’t seen too many other American films outside this series that would fit into the subgenre except for James Gunn’s schizophrenically toned Taxi-driver meditation, Super. I’m sure some other folks could throw further examples at me.

With the original, it was really Hit Girl that made the movie. The purple-clad, uber-violent Mindy Macready has got to be my pick for one of the absolute most iconic, touchtone characters in film from the last ten years. (There’s a reason I have a British poster from the original release featuring her on my wall.) To some it was the sticking point that kept them from enjoying the movie. To me, Chloe Grace Moretz’s performance lifted the film to something special. Her relationship with Nic Cage’s “Big Daddy” (in full Adam West mode) basically stole the film right out from under the eponymous character who was, thankfully, more likable than Tobey Maguire and his glassy-eyed stare.

The sequel is smart enough to give equal time to Kick Ass and Hit Girl, following both of them as Dave (Aaron Johnson) tries to get back into the superhero game while Mindy does her best to leave it behind. Frankly, this film does a better job of explaining someone with a damaged psyche going into retirement than Dark Knight Rises. And make no mistake, while Hit Girl is shown as heroic, it makes no bones about the fact that she is damaged. Her attempts to integrate herself into high school society show that there’s little difference between the halls and the streets. It’s no wonder she wants no part of the “ordinary” experience as she goes from one extreme role model in Big Daddy to the another in the popular girls of her school. Compared to that clique, drug dealers are easy to figure out. I have to think it was purposeful that, while Grace actually looks to be the age of the character she’s playing, many of her classmates are cast to be the 20-somethings that regularly populate shows and movies set in high school and it just provides more contrast for this relationship. Is it going to be as shocking to see a 15-year old girl killing and maiming as it was when she was younger? No. Joss Whedon and all the “girl power” acolytes that have been slinging out the now well-established teen girl-as-badass archetype have taken care of that. But she continues to take the movie on her shoulders and for those that actually liked the character and didn’t simply like the first movie on the basis of shock value, it shouldn’t be an issue.

As it is, there’s still plenty of violence to be had, some dished out by Hit Girl and some of it from new characters.

Most of the new additions to the cast work well. For all his post-production whining, Jim Carrey’s Col. Stars and Stripes does a good job recreating some of the weird energy that Nic Cage brought to the first film, even if he doesn’t manage to be his equal. The new heroes and villains are all ridiculous and fun with varying degrees of success. Chritopher Mintz-Plasse is back as Chris D’Amico, making good on his threat at the end of the first film to come back, declaring himself the world’s first supervillain. The name he chooses is part of what threatens my family-friendly rating. Early on he abandons his Red Mist moniker and declares himself The Mother****er. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. Surprisingly, John Leguizamo has a fairly major part in the film, grounding it in the early stages. This is somewhat important given the way it can’t seem to decide if it’s supposed to be taking place in the primary-colored comic book world or the “real world” that the characters talk about so much in the film.

And if there’s one problem I did have with Kick Ass 2 it is this. Sometimes it simply can’t decide what it is. It’s a blender full of ultraviolence, capes and teen comedy, but they also seem to be giving a half-assed effort to elevate the material with a message that can’t seem to quite get out; the old “violence begets violence” chestnut. This is at odds with how they present the other message of the film about regular people making a difference, however. As such, it’s confused about what the underlying theme is.

While I loved how the look of the first film seemed a direct response/send-up of Raimi’s Spider-Man (especially the original film) the second, while certainly striving to create a visual dynamic that matches the first, seems less interested in capturing that specific stylistic choice. I suppose that’s really what’s been lost with Matthew Vaughn being only a producer instead of coming back to direct this chapter. Vaughn simply was more interesting visually. One thing I can’t believe I haven’t seen before given how well it works is the use of word balloons as subtitles. On the plus side, the actions scenes, as they are, seem to be slightly improved and in terms of quality and inventiveness there are a couple of them that whooped the heck out of most stuff seen in this summer’s more expensive Wolverine film. I definitely found myself audibly expressing pain at how some of the characters meet their makers.

On this end the film is absolutely entertaining and I recommend that people who enjoyed the first one check it out. For those that found the first film repugnant or offensive, I can’t think of a single reason they would find the second redeeming. For me, it was well worth the trip.

(Three and a half damns given out of five.)