Kick-Ass 2 – A Review

Most of the characters in the Kick-Ass universe have a secret identity; regular everyday people who have decided to don a costume and become a superhero or a diabolical super villain. By day, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) is a high school senior, but by night he is the masked vigilante Kick-Ass.  It’s kind of the premise of the whole franchise. The problem with Kick-Ass 2 is that it doesn’t have any identity, let alone a secret one. The movie retreads a lot of the same beats from the original film, but without the same charm or excitement. Doubling down on the violence only serves to make the movie less interesting, not more. The whole thing is kind of a jumbled mess. If it wasn’t for the semi-interesting arc involving Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) the sequel would have been a complete disappointment.

I quite enjoyed Kick-Ass when it was released in 2010; it felt fresh and original and had an innovative story to tell. While the first film was supposed to be the story of Dave’s journey into heroism, the real star of the film was Hit-Girl. Seeing a little girl who is a total bad ass and uses bad language was such a cool juxtaposition that you could be forgiven for forgetting what else happened in the film. That would be too bad, because there were other fun performances in Kick-Ass, including Nicholas Cage properly used as Big Daddy, and the film as a whole was witty and exciting. Though Hit-Girl stole the show, these were clearly defined characters and you enjoyed spending time with them (for the most part – I was never 100% on board with Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Red Mist). When Kick-Ass 2 was finally announced, I was excited and hoped that the sequel could capture some of the spark of the original.

Sadly, Kick-Ass 2 is a giant step backward for this burgeoning franchise. While the first film was violent, it was mixed in with some good storytelling and comedy. The second film opts to ratchet up the violence and darkness, but it is a case of diminishing returns. I think the movie thinks it is still funny, but they would be wrong; the humor has become decidedly cruder in this second film, which wouldn’t necessarily be a problem if the jokes actually worked. However, most of the jokes land with a thud in this film. I saw Kick-Ass 2 with a bunch of fanboys who were primed for the film and even they barely laughed. A bunch of new characters are introduced that have absolutely no personality. The film feels more like a slog than the fun and transgressive ride of the original movie.

Now, I do not have a problem with violence in and of itself and while some people may be turned off by the uptick in gratuity, that isn’t necessarily an issue for me. I have watched and enjoyed many films that are much darker and more violent than Kick-Ass 2. However, those films are balanced and there is just violence for the sake of violence. You get the feeling while watching Kick-Ass 2 that they are using violence to cover up the complete lack of real story or character development. I can almost picture the writers’ room, where they realize that there are plot holes and a weak story and decide rather than trying to fix the problems that they should just throw in a prolonged fight scene. “Just add more violence – they’ll never notice.” The problem with relying on mayhem to paper over holes in the film is that the more that it is used, the less effective it is. After a while, I just got bored with it. It no longer felt daring; it was just more of the same.

The biggest miscalculation, in my opinion, was bringing back Christopher Mintz-Plasse. He simply doesn’t work in this role and most of the scenes involving him were just painful to watch. His comedy was the flattest and I just didn’t buy his alleged transformation. Absolutely nothing about his character works. He was also involved with a scene that is the most eyebrow raising of the film – the attempted rape of a woman. Thankfully the scene from the original comic, which was much more graphic and violent, is not included in the film, but the fact that they even hinted about going down that road marks the much darker tone that the sequel has taken. I’ve liked the actor in other stuff, but I just think he is a distraction.

I was most concerned with the role of Hit-Girl going into the sequel, as I had concerns about whether she would be as awesome as she was in the first film. Part of the fun of that character was the sheer insanity of a little girl that can kick ass and take names, but I worried that it would seem less novel now that the actress is older and we had already witnessed her in action throughout the first film. Kick-Ass 2 wisely decides to put Hit-Girl on the shelf a bit; this doesn’t mean less screen time for Chloë Grace Moretz, rather that her story focuses more on her life as Mindy Macready and trying to fit in with her peers and adjust to life after the death of her father. While not the most innovative story, this was the part of the film that I liked the best as she struggles with being true to what her father wanted and respecting the wishes of her guardian, while trying to resist the pull of the excitement of being a super hero. She didn’t have a traditional childhood, so trying to fit in at high school as a regular student proves to be a challenge. Moretz is fun to watch in both identities and she does a nice job with conveying the inner turmoil that her character is experiencing. Hit-Girl is not nearly as shocking as she was in the first film, but she’s still the most interesting character of the bunch.

Taylor-Johnson is fine as Kick-Ass/Dave, but his is saddled with not much of a story to tell. His relationship with Hit-Girl is the most interesting, but the rest of the new characters that turn up are so bland that there isn’t much to sustain interest. The first film was all about him learning to become a superhero and inspiring others, but this film has no such transformation. It’s just recycled plot points and it doesn’t feel very fresh or original. I’ll give him credit though – dude got pretty ripped for the sequel. It’s not really in keeping with character, since I think some of the charm of Kick-Ass was that Dave didn’t look like much of a superhero, but I can’t fault the guy a little vanity in wanting to look like the more traditional comic book star.

Some other thoughts:

  • Jim Carrey, who plays the Colonel, famously distanced himself from the movie because of all the violence in light of events like Sandy Hook. The cynic in me says he distanced himself because he knew this wasn’t a very good movie, though he would have to distance himself from a lot of his films if that is the case. Guy has been in some pretty awful stuff. He’s fine as the Colonel, the only new character that has any real pop or personality.
  • It says something that at the end of the film I was still unclear as to whether Kick-Ass had hung up his costume or not. The movie sent some very mixed messages as to what the ultimate resolution was for a lot of these characters.
  • The climax of the movie hinges on Dave’s friend Todd being a complete and utter moron. I get that you’re mad at your friends, pal, but think things through.
  • Most of the people that died in the original film were bad guys or people sacrificing for the good of others; Kick-Ass 2 kills innocents and civilians at will.
  • It was nice to see Donald Faison (Turk from Scrubs, or Murray from Clueless if you are old school) turn up as Dr. Gravity, but I wish they had given him more to do.
  • They should just get it over with and make a Hit-Girl film; she seems to be the only character that still works. The film noticeably slows down and becomes less interesting when she isn’t on screen.
  • There is a brief after the credits scene, that lives open the possibility of a third Kick-Ass film. This is not a good idea and the scene felt like a total cop-out. Weak sauce, writers. Weak sauce.

Kick-Ass 2 lacks all the cleverness and fun of the first film; the decision to make this a darker film and to focus more on gratuitous violence rather than other essential elements was misguided. I had been very excited for this film and I left the theater extremely disappointed. Many of the elements of Kick-Ass 2 simply didn’t work and the result was a boring film that was anything but amusing. Chloë Grace Moretz  and Hit-Girl are the only parts worth watching. Sitting through this film was work and the final product was anything but kick-ass. Do yourself a favor and just re-watch the original film. It’s a better use of your time.

Kick-Ass 2 opens nationwide today.

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Comic Con Edition

One of the things on my pop culture bucket list that I’m dying to do is to attend Comic Con in San Diego. If you are unfamiliar with Comic Con, it is basically pop culture mecca; while the convention originally was focused primarily on comic books, it has morphed into a giant celebration of all things pop culture. It is the venue where tons of exciting news about television shows and movies is revealed and where die-hard fans congregate for the chance to see their favorite actors and directors at panels. If you love pop culture, it is something that you have to check out. It’s ridiculously popular and the people often have to camp out to get into the more popular panels, but I feel like it is something that I have to experience at least once if I am going to call myself a pop culture enthusiast. Perhaps next year.

But thanks to the wonders of the Internet, you don’t have to go to Comic Con to get all of the breaking news and scoop about your favorites. This week’s round-up is chocked full of nuggets from convention as well as some other pop culture goodness that happened in the last two weeks. I just saved you all a roundtrip ticket to California.

So kick back and peruse my bi-weekly summary of all things pop.

  • The biggest news of the Con in my opinion – Superman and Batman are going to be in a movie together!
  • Game of Thrones paid tribute to dead characters with an In Memoriam video (contains spoilers- duh):

 

  • NBC has released a trailer for Dracula:

 

  • Watch the entire X-Men: Days of Future Past Panel:

 

  • Neil deGrasse Tyson is rebooting Carl Sagan’s Cosmos.

 

  • Also Breaking Bad related – Walter White’s journey:

 

  • A How I Met Your Mother video from Comic Con. Amen, kids. Amen!

 

  • You can watch the entire HIMYM panel here.
  • A trailer for JJ Abrams’ new show Believe:

 

  • Sons season 6 promo – everyone looks really mad:

 

  • A new NSFW red band trailer for Kick-Ass 2 debuted at Comic Con:

 

  • A trailer for the new season of The Walking Dead:

 

  • A sneak peek of the Veronica Mars movie:

 

  • Metallica released a trailer for their upcoming film:

 

  • Watch the entire Marvel panel:

 

  • A Hannibal gag reel:

 

  • Trailer for season 2 of Arrow:

 

  • I’m still shocked by the sudden death of Cory Monteith. I long abandoned Glee, but he was always my favorite. Addiction is no joke, my friends. To remember him, one of my favorite performances from the show:

 

  • CBS has posted episodes of Swingtown, Jericho and Wolf Lake online.
  •  An article in Rolling Stone states that It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia will end after its 10th season. Glenn Howerton took to Twitter to say that might not be the case:

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  • Watch Jon Hamm’s ESPY’s monologue:

 

  • As a political scientist who used to use “I’m Just a Bill” in her Into to American Government classes, I enjoyed Jimmy Kimmel’s Schoolhouse Rock parody:

 

  • Parks and Recreation has some great guest stars lined up for next season: Henry Winkler (in some inspired casting) and Kristin Bell.
  • Watch Jerry Seinfeld and Stephen Colbert (two of my faves) chat:

 

  • Britney Spears new music video for her song in Smurfs 2 features 2 cute co-stars – her sons:

 

  • Tumblr of the week: 99 Problems (illustrations of possible Jay Z problems)
  • Florence Welch is just like us – gets drunk and sings “Get Lucky”

 

  • A trailer for the 4th season of Boardwalk Empire:

 

  • Vampire Weekend covers “Blurred Lines”

 

  • Jason Momoa (Drago, GoT) has been cast in a new Sundance Channel show.
  • Dave Grohl joined Sha Na Na on stage during a Grease sing-a-long because Dave Grohl is awesome (and to the kids in the video – shut up! A legend is on drums):

 

  • A new trailer was released for Catching Fire:

 

  • Sacha Baron Cohen has quit the Freddie Mercury biopic. That’s too bad – that had promise.
  • Watch Jesse and the Rippers (John Stamos’ band from Full House) reunite on Fallon:

 

  • The Backstreet Boys have released a new acoustic single:

 

  • Beyoncé: gets hair caught in a fan during a concert, keeps singing.
  • R.I.P. Dennis Farina. As a tribute, here is a supercut of the actor saying the F word (NSFW, obviously):

 

Baby News!

  • Robin Thicke covers Icona Pop’s “I Love It”

 

  • Aaron Paul appeared on Beverly Hills, 90210:

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  • Pearl Jam debuted some new songs at their concert at Wrigley Field:

 

  • Hear your first taste of the Elvis Costello and The Roots collaboration:

 

  • Alanis Morissette’s song “Ironic” rewritten so it is actually ironic:

 

  • A thief stole a van full of band equipment for the band A Flock of Seagulls. The interesting part of this story is that A Flock of Seagulls is still a thing – I haven’t heard a peep out of them since the 1980s.

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts

  • Blurring Pains

 

  • Bill Clinton sings “Blurred Lines” (a song that I am completely obsessed with):

 

  • “Ice Ice Baby” sung by the movies:

 

  • History gets a Game of Thrones makeover in this video of the building of the Capitol:

 

  • Some new mashups courtesy of Girl Talk. First up, A Michael Jackson/Daft Punk combination:

 

  • Kanye and Marilyn Manson (I really dig this one):

 

  • This is impressive – a reinterpretation of the Wizard of Oz done a cappella with pop songs:

 

  • A Game of Hodor:

 

  • A supercut of people watching movies in the movies:

 

  • It’s Always Sunny in Pacific Rim:

 

  • And finally……A Cher/Golden Girls mashup? Spectacular!

Pop Culture Odds and Ends – Epic Roundup edition

So it appears I went a little overboard this week with the links; I was freaking out that I was behind schedule on this post and just started plugging away in compiling links. Next thing you know, the document was nine pages long. I guess I just kind of lost track of what I was doing. So while you wade through all the pop culture goodness I’ve cultivated for you over the last two weeks, I’m going to consider taking a nap after a job well done.

  • Chris Brown is facing possible jail time after an alleged hit and run incident. That’s kind of like getting Al Capone on tax evasion.
  • Don Draper’s childhood home is a real place (and for sale), though it was heavily CGIed for Mad Men. Michael Jackson’s Thriller video and scenes from Chinatown were filmed in the same neighborhood.
  • Get off the ledge – Robert Downey, Jr. is confirmed for Avengers 2 and Avengers 3.
  • Breaking Bad is the latest TV show to get its own beer. Anyone in Albuquerque want to send me some?
  • Um….am I the only one that finds it odd that they are using an Eminem song in the trailer for Despicable Me 2?

 

  • Starz has officially announced a new series Outlander, based on the books by Diana Gabaldon. Not sure it is for me, but sounds interesting.
  • No shocker here – Dan Harmon finally watched the 4th season of Community and he wasn’t a fan.
  • Flavor Flav’s last chicken and ribs restaurant has closed. Fun fact – Flavor Flav is inexplicably one of my Twitter followers (Word up, Flavor FLAV!).
  • Stephen Colbert’s mother passed away last week. If you haven’t seen his touching tribute to her, it is a must watch. I bawled through the whole thing.

 

  • The national nightmare is over – Twinkies, Ho Hos and the rest of the Hostess cake family will return to shelves July 15. I’m guessing the people who dropped a ton of cash to stock up are feeling kind of foolish right now.
  • Someone (brave) got an Arrested Development inspired license plate:

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  • The Faceblock App from the new episodes of Arrested Development can now be downloaded.
  • Shark Week is coming in August – and if this promo is an indication, it’s going to be particularly twisted. RIP Snuffy.

 

  • CNN breaks down the accuracy of the recent Lifetime movie on Jodi Arias (which yes, I watched). Good job CNN – no worldwide crises you should be covering.
  • Nick Swisher and his actress wife Joanna Garcia have released the first picture of their baby daughter and she is just precious:

 

Welcome to the world, Emerson Jay!

Welcome to the world, Emerson Jay!

 

  • Finally! One of Taylor Swift’s (alleged) exes has (allegedly) written a song about her. Oh John Mayer – I knew you were the one that was douchey enough to do this and I love you for it.
  • Jon Stewart was on the Egyptian version of The Daily Show. It switches over to English about 2.5 minutes into the interview

 

I’m still reeling from the death of James Gandolfini and am touched with the various ways he has been honored:

  • The New York Yankees took a moment to observe his passing:

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  • Holsten’s Ice Cream, the locale for the final scene of The Sopranos, saved a table in his honor:

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  • Sesame Street posted a clip of his 2002 appearance:

 

  • Gary David Goldberg, creator of Family Ties and Spin City, passed away. Michael J. Fox remembers him.
  • I’m regretting that I didn’t go to the Wilco’s Solid Sound Festival – it happened only a hop, skip and a jump away in North Adams, MA. I’m especially bummed I missed Wilco’s all cover set, but now I can listen to it online in its entirety.

 

  • Happy 50th birthday to Georgios Kyriacos Panagiòtou (George Michael to the uninitiated).  In honor of half a century, here’s one of my favorite songs:

 

  • A new poster has been released for the final season of Breaking Bad (did anyone else internally yell out Fame? Just me? Moving on….)

breaking bad poster

 

  • Men’s Wearhouse has fired their founder (and star of their commercials). I’m guessing they didn’t like the way he looks.
  • The Village Voice has an interview with my favorite member of The Roots, Questlove.
  • A Street Fighter parody – with cats. My Pumpkin would dominate in this.

 

  • Among the new Houseguest on this season of Big BrotherRachel’s sister (if you watched the show, you know what this means).
  • Late Night with Jimmy Fallon was really exceptional last week – great guests and fun bits – but this Super Mario Brother’s rap is really fantastic:

 

  • Speaking of…this photo makes me deliriously happy:

Rob Stringer Honored As UJA-Federation Music Visionary Of 2013

 

  • The first episode of the Stephen King miniseries Under the Dome did very well for CBS. The rich get richer.
  • An infographic of Leonardo DiCaprio movies.

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  • The first trailer for the upcoming Lego movie has been released:

 

  • This screencap pretty much sums up the 90s:

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  • Parks and Recreation will kick off its sixth season with an hour long episode that takes place outside Pawnee.
  • Disney has (thankfully) decided to change the name of the upcoming Muppets sequel from The Muppets…..Again! to Muppets Most Wanted.

 

  • Ridley Scott. Cormac McCarthy. Brad Pitt. Michael Fassbender. Penelope Cruz. Javier Bardem. Cameron Diaz. All associated with one movie – The Counselor

 

  • The actor in this character might look familiar – he was the awful Oliver on The O.C.

 

  • OK – I PROMISE this is the last Kanye-related thing this week. He made a terrible short film to promote his new album Yeezus that features fellow Kardashian baby daddy Scott Disick and Kim BFF Jonathan Cheban. They are not great actors, but this is kind of hilarious since Disick has always given off an American Psycho vibe. Glad to see he owns his sociopathic-ness.

 

  • This isn’t really pop culture related, but it’s far too crazy not to share (and it happened a few towns over from me).

As always, we end with the mashups and supercuts

  • Here’s montage of famous movie actresses, edited to make their heads explode

 

  • Wonder what it would be like if John Lennon auditioned for The Voice? Wonder no longer

 

  • I’m still not tired of Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky;” listen to it performed by President Obama:

 

  •  A supercut of all of Troy McClure’s credits on The Simpsons

 

  • Jon Snow gets an 80’s style training montage, as it should be:

 

  • This supercut seems to indicate that David Letterman is kind of obsessed with drums:

 

  • A supercut of zombie headshots

 

  • And finally – Hannibal’s open credits get an Arrested Development make-over:

 

Have a great week!