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Friday, April 30, 2010

Happy Hour Movie Review: Kick Ass

Reporting live from the Lovin' Cup Cafe in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, where the Thursday night happy hour is all you can drink Miller High Life, well liquor, and wine from 6-9. There's also killer $2 sliders and tacos.

Beer #1.

I just got back from Union Square, where I watched Kick-Ass, the newest entry in the comicbook superhero action genre. Unlike most other superhero movies, this isn't a DC or Marvel creation (per se), it's the creation of the mad Scot, Mark Millar, who's been on a streak with controversial mainstream (Ultimates, Fantastic Four) and independent (Chosen, Wanted) comic book works, and the Marvel progeny John Romita Jr., who's made his name on Spider-Man & Daredevil, but has drawn it all.

Millar and Romita Jr. released the comic series through Marvel's creator owned imprint, Icon. I heard it was originally pitched as a movie, but when they couldn't get any bites, they went and did it as a comic, which of course got Hollywood interested (surprisingly seeing as Wanted, Millar's Top Cow series, was a bomb at the box office).

Matthew Vaughn (L4yer Cake) directed it, and it was a fairly independent production, all things considered. Which makes sense when you witness the carnage that they pull off in the movie, and the indie comic cred (non-partisan to DC or Marvel), with Dark Horse posters in the local diner/comic store (why don't these exist? Who wants to open one with me?)

I'll save the spoilers for later, but right now i'd just like to say how well crafted a film it is. It has moments where it "jumps the shark" or gets a bit heavy handed with the "comic book movie" tropes, like the narration text boxes that read MEANWHILE, or the motion comic origin of Nic Cage's 'Big Daddy' character. The former happens only once or twice, while the latter was just so cool I didn't mind it. Very awesome seeing a 3D rendering of JR Jr.'s artwork.

Beer #2

Big Lebowski starts up on the wall, projected while Motown and Soul pipes in from everywhere. I've ordered sliders, one chicken & one burger, just to start. I actually really love this place, nice dark atmosphere, great music, always a classic film playing (last week was The Graduate which was appropriate for my viewing on (500) Days of Summer the other day.

But back to Kick-Ass. I've never actually read the comic, and rather than read it before the movie to be that much cooler, if only in my own mind, I decided i'd go in blind & dumb, and judge it on its own merits as a film. It's so rare that I get to do that with mass media comicbook projects, so I cherish every opportunity.

I have it ready to read and will follow this up with a review of that in a few days. But for now, the movie was a lot to digest. It defied conventional formula, although it did have its standard action movie and superhero moments. But I found myself unsure of the direction and plot of the movie, which is also a rarity after seeing almost every worthy (and many unworthy) action movie, foreign or domestic.

Speaking of foreign movies, normally I am drawn to Asian cinema as they have this quality, this boldness and visceral feel to them that make me, force me really, to acknowledge the screen violence that most American movies have left me numb to. There's a rawness and imaginative aspect to their films that really sparks my creativity and inspires me.

Sliders. 2. Beef & Chicken.

I try a bite of the chicken one. So good. It's small but so tasty. A slice of avacado on top, with a piece of cheese. I'm not quite good enough to place what kind. And some sort of sauce that just adds that touch to it. Nom. And the size makes you really stop and enjoy each bite, rather than slave over massive mastication. I stretch that one into four bites and each one is equally satisfying.

A bite of the half a slice of pickle cleanses the palate, reading me for the burger. I save that one for second because it's just that kick-ass, for lack of a better term. A sip of beer and I'm ready to nom. A perfect piece of bacon juts out on either side, the meat just charred enough, a tad dry, and flavored with epic awesomeness.

A girl with awesome hair and glasses (prescription or not? I vote not, though she has a Alternative Nation Kennedy vibe as I wear my oversived ratty sweater I somehow picked up in my youth in the 90's) sits down at the bar a few stools away. I glance up at the dude, and somehow know everything will be okay. We all abide.

I finish the beer and hope that the swank bartender that thinks he's working at a hotel bar serving drinks up to a hipster Humphrey Bogart notices and gives me another. A nod, a point, a mumbled phrase, the transaction is complete. I have more beer.

Beer #3.

Two girls sit down on the other side of me, two stools over, and order their drinks. I polish off the slider, enjoying every moment as it passes over my teeth and brushes up against my tongue. Wait a second, John's texted me. Allow me to respond.

John: What are you doing?

Kurt: At Loving Cup in Bk. Drinking & eating in Wburg. Prob going to a beer garden on LES at 9.

I'll be meeting Lia & Mike who I work with at Lorilei's down on Staton? Or is it Rivington? I know the area, a German bar with massive beers that list percentages next to the absurd names. There's an awkward exchange with Retro Bartender and 90's MTV Kennedy; she ordered sliders and tacos came instead. I almost take the tacos. Instead I make a lowkey gesture and wait til later to order them.

Back to Kick-Ass, part two. It was violent. People got cut. Lots of knife action, a ton of blatant headshots, and brutal beatings. Every action scene drew you in and satified you, whether you were watching Kick-Ass take a hit, and another, and another, and get back up to crack someone else with one of his batons, or you were watching Hit Girl flip through the air, gunning down thugs.

I forgot what beer I'm on, not that it matters. Did I get a new one? Ahh, whatevs. Did I mention that I love that Kick-Ass costume? I totally do. It's ugly and awesome all at the same time. Part Olympic event apparel and part retro Kirby-esque design. Green with track suit lined yellow.

John: I'm at a bar in soho drinking frustrations away. I can always meet up with you-let me know.

Kurt: Dude, totally. Best drink I've had in over a year right now. If you want to meet me in the LES, I'm just meeting two co-workers for some beers.

That's a lot of backstory into my life right there, but suffice to say it involves my horrific living situation and Lady Gaga's DJ. At least James Brown's 'Make it Funky' has come on. James Brown has always made me feel better ever since I saw the Blues Brothers as a child.

Maude Lebowski is lowered from her harness where she flies through the apartment throwing paint at a canvass. Fucking Julianne Moore rules. Go through her IMDB and watch it all. It's all quality. The fact that she's chill and cool, so I hear, and can play a total goofball with a Boston accent as on 30 Rock, well, that's the icing.

But I digress. Nicolas Cage. He ruins everything you like about him with a certain role (Ghost Rider) and then can just kill it with another that makes you love him (Adaptation, Raising Arizona). His turn as Big Daddy makes you kind of love him again. Bad moustached daddy to young Hit Girl, he puts on a Ward Cleaver "aww shucks" sensibility when acting with his daughter, channels Adam West when in costume, and then delivers in dramatic turn in the inbetween spots.

Beer #4?

I ordered tacos. One chicken, one beef. John texted back. Gotta look up the address before I send it to him, so let's finish up this review shall we?

McLovin nails the rich kid, stuffed up nose, wannabe whiny boy without every becoming a caricature. In fact, none of these characters (except the love interest who thinks Kick-Ass' secret identity is gay), ever fall into over-the-top, cartoonish misrepresentations of actual people, but you're still aware this is a world seperate from our own.

Real world violence rules apply, but it also slips into stylized killing strokes without missing a beat. And it all satisfies. A good action scene should snag your attention, give you chills, and the make you go 'Oooooh' or 'Ackk!"


They appear small but that is so utterly deceptive. They are damn filling. One bite of the chicken taco, some sort of sauce drizzled over it, and I remember why I enjoy eating sometimes. Every bite is damn good. A tad spicy, a little bland, the soft taco shells are perfect. A bit of fresh salsa on top, all green and chopped up.

All the performances in Kick-Ass were great, but whatever his name is who plays the lead was outstanding. His voice cracks in just the right way, he can shift from total dork (convincingly, and I'm a harsh judge as I grew up with true dorks, dweebs & weirdos) to heroic with just a costume change. The real world, pop culture mentions are great. A Myspace page to advertise his heroic services? Of course.

Beef taco time. It's gotten a tad cold as I typed away, front windows still open as the sun goes down. I hope you appreciate this, damn you. I definitely need to finish this taco and then break the seal. If this is beer four then my $12 has already paid for my buzz. Next up is whiskey.

The girls have cleared the bar, everyone's met friends her and engage in conversation where I hear "Do you like Animal Collective?" Yeah, about three years ago, which was still way too late. Missed em when they palyed South Street Seaport for free too dammit. But yeah, they're alright considering no one asked me.

Shit, bathroom break.

Whiskey #1 when I get back. Now the drunks gets going. But yeah, Kick-Ass was pretty...kick ass? It had violence, drama, wish fulfillment, was really well directed, never got too gimmicky. It had its own universe which begs to be explored further. Red Mist was originally set up as the villain of the sequel so I recently read. Could be good.

Watching McLovin and the other dude battle it out like two comic geeks would actually fight (I should know, I did it with Tim often when we were teenagers) as the young girl from (500) Days of Summer did some of the most impressive fighting moves I've seen in an American film ever.

And that's the controversy right? Extreme violence committed by an 11 year old. Is it right? Should Nic Cage be okay with shooting a child? Is it okay that the final battle is a brutal bruhaha between a badass Mark Strong bald mafioso and the "cute-as-a-button" girl that I don't know her name? It did feel a little odd, but it played into that wish fulfillment badass killer instinct. Girls are always going to be portrayed as more Kick Ass. (See Mr. & Mrs. Smith)

I prob need a smoke, as I have 25 mins left of this happy hour. I guess I can hold out long enough to finish this review. It was fucking awesome. It was a pretty decent movie, it had satisfyingly violent scenes, played up the comicbook vibe and never got too predictable.

It was a good movie, a badass violent action movie, and oh yeah, it was a pretty honest superhero movie. It really makes me curious what the comic is like. I read a Body Bags One-Shot by Jason Pearson today and it totally prepared me for what I was going to see tonight.

Cartoonish violence that still held an impact as shit hit the fan and got ridiculous, it still held a human aspect to it that never let it get to the realm of unreasonable, even as Kick-Ass flies in with a gatling gun jetpack (I told you there'd be spoilers...)

Whiskey #2.

I'm just about done here. I ate my food. I killed time/my bitter loneliness, by writing this review. The movie was good. The fact that it wasn't a mainstream superhero book is impressive. Millar's second Hollywood movie with a director that is pretty rad (see Nightwatch & Daywatch for the director of Millar's other concept WANTED) is significantly better than his first, even though it explores the same themes (total loser becomes badass).

What other comic book writer can say that he's got two of the most inventive action movies put out by Hollywood in the past decade, aka ever, to his credit? He sat down and wrote those scenes, that an artist drew, then they sold it to a producer, who hired a director, then casted it and shot the damn thing, and both are (fairly) close to the originals.

At least I assume so as I prepare to read Kick-Ass: the comic. Well, that's enough from me. 13 mins left to happy hour, go see Kick-Ass if you even remotely like superheroes or action movies, as it's one of the best that have ever been put out.

Thank that insane Scotsman and the NY ginzo creative team.


PS- This night ended with me waking up somewhere in Brooklyn, nearing Coney Island, and I lost my glasses. And cried.

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