Tag Archives: Spider-Man

‘Kick-Ass’ kicks it; ‘Funeral’ is DOA

Film reviews

Wanting to get away from it all, I decided to see a couple of mindless movies — “Kick-Ass” and “Death at a Funeral” — this past week. Here’s how it turned out:

‘Kick-Ass’: ‘Batman’ meets ‘Kill Bill’

Chloe Grace Moretz, Mark Strong

Chloe Grace Moretz portrays Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass.” Here she is about to hit the film’s big villain.

“Kick-Ass” is violent, the critics warned.

No problem. I’ve seen the “Kill Bill” duo several times.

“Kick-Ass” has a little of this, a little of that — “Batman,” “Watchmen,” “Spider-Man,” “Kill Bill,” etc.

And that’s OK. “Kick-Ass” works.

In “Kick-Ass,” the adorable Aaron Johnson (my Internet research shows that he was born in 1990, so I suppose that I’m not a pedophile after all…) plays a comic-book fanboy who decides to try the super-hero thing out for himself. He invents Kick-Ass, a very amateur, green (literally and figuratively), ninja-like “super-hero.”

He soon is joined by the father-and-daughter team of Big Daddy and Hit Girl, played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Grace Moretz.

Most lethal of everyone in “Kick-Ass” is Hit Girl, which isn’t very believable but which is entertaining nonetheless. The violence that the purple-wigged Hit Girl visits upon her victims is so over the top that you can’t take it seriously. She’s like a little Beatrix Kiddo of “Kill Bill.”

The scene in which Hit Girl’s father teaches her how to endure bullets alone makes “Kick-Ass” worth watching, but the subplot in which Kick-Ass (who, like Spider-Man was, still is in high school) gets the girl he wants only because she thinks he’s gay (and that he thus is “safe”) also works.

Hit Girl and Big Daddy are way out of Kick-Ass’ league — after all, Big Daddy has had the resources and he and Hit Girl have had the time to polish their act, whereas Kick-Ass has had neither — but “Kick-Ass” still more or less works, even with the mismatched super-heroes (unlike “Watchmen,” which, with its grossly mismatched super-heroes, is a mess).

The “super-hero” of Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, isn’t really a super-hero at all, but is a gangly, awkward rich boy playing super-hero. However, “Kick-Ass” ends on a note that indicates that there will be a sequel in which Red Mist plays a larger role — and perhaps actually becomes more of the super-hero that he wants to be.

“Kick-Ass” is pretty good for mostly mindless entertainment. Roger Ebert hated it — he gave it only one star, acknowledging the good performances by Johnson, Moretz and Cage but lambasting the movie’s use of such a lethal 11-year-old girl (who at one point in the film takes a pummeling herself by an adult male) — and while I usually agree with Ebert, I have to disagree with him on this one.

“Will I seem hopelessly square if I find ‘Kick-Ass’ morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point?” Ebert asks in his review. The answer is that yes, Ebert is square, at least on this one, and that the creators of “Kick-Ass” fairly apparently don’t believe that the over-the-top character of Hit Girl should be taken any more seriously than should the over-the-top character of Beatrix Kiddo in “Kill Bill.”

Yes, “Kick-Ass” is violent. That’s why it’s rated R. And that’s why it is titled “Kick-Ass.” You are warned.

I can agree with Ebert on one of his criticisms of “Kick-Ass”; Ebert notes that apparently in the world of “Kick-Ass,” “you don’t need to be great at hand-to-hand combat if you can just shoot people dead.”

True, there is too much shooting by Big Daddy and Hit Girl in “Kick-Ass,” and shooting is rather unimaginative and just too easy, which is why the vast majority of super-heroes don’t go around shooting people, but at the most use blades, if they use any actual weapons at all. But given Big Daddy’s background as a former cop, it at least doesn’t violate the logic of the storyline, and it doesn’t ruin film.

If you liked “Kill Bill,” you’ll probably like “Kick-Ass.”

My grade: B+

‘Death at a Funeral’ is dead on arrival

In this film publicity image released by Screen ...

Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock and a gagged dwarf (Peter Dinklage) — so it must be funny, right? Wrong…

I had high hopes for “Death at a Funeral.” Roger Ebert liked it, giving it three and a half stars out of four. Good comedies are as rare as are good horror films, it seems to me, so when a comedy gets Ebert’s thumbs up to the degree that “Death at a Funeral” has, there’s a good chance that I’ll catch it.

I didn’t see the original “Death at a Funeral,” which came out only three years ago and was directed by Frank Oz, so I can’t compare it to this year’s “Death at a Funeral,” which was directed by the normally good Neil LaBute (whose “In the Company of Men,” “Nurse Betty” and “The Shape of Things” I liked) but is stillborn due to its (um, literally) shitty script.

The best director and the best actors can’t do much with material that isn’t that funny in the first place.

Not only are the “comic” set-ups in “Death at a Funeral” not that funny, but they’re used relentlessly repeatedly throughout the film.

The idea that the dead family patriarch had a down-low same-sex sexual affair with a blackmailing dwarf is beaten into the ground, even though Peter Dinklage, who plays the down-low dwarf, has been good in other films.

James Marsden, whom I know mostly as the character of Cyclops from the “X-Men” movies, probably should stick with drama. I certainly don’t mind seeing him mostly nude, as we do in “Death in a Funeral” (although I also hate him for having no apparent body fat whatsoever), but the shtick over his inadvertently having taken a hullucinogen instead of Valium grows tiresome quickly — yet it persists throughout the movie.

Loretta Devine as the matriarch and widow does the best that she can with the script that she was handed, but her character’s constantly hounding the character of her daughter-in-law about wanting to be a grandmother is trite and isn’t any funnier the 10th time than it is the first or second or third or…

Danny Glover is utterly wasted in “Death at a Funeral” as the wheelchair-bound codger Uncle Russell, who only hurls profanities and hits people with his cane. Har har!

Zoe Saldana (who played the blue-skinned, cat-nosed heroine of “Avatar”), as the wife of Chris Rock’s character, also is among the cavalcade of tragically wasted talent in “Death at a Funeral.”

The likeable and talented Rock also does the best that he can with the script that he was handed, as do Martin Lawrence and Tracy Morgan, but I had to ask myself several times throughout the movie why these stars agreed to appear in the movie, assuming that all of them had read the script.

A corpse falling out of its casket and Uncle Russell shitting all over another character’s hand while on the commode, and this shit-upon character having shit (diarrhea, to be exact) prominently visible on his shirt for the rest of the film — well, those things just don’t make me ROLF.

If I thought that those kinds of things were funny, I’d watch television, and that’s what “Death at a Funeral” feels like: a 30-minute sitcom episode — a mediocre one, at that — spread out over an hour an a half.

To be fair, I heard plenty of people in the audience laughing. But then again, most people love to watch TV… (I know that I’m a minority on that one.) I always hope that when people laugh at an unfunny movie, they’re just laughing because they paid to laugh, and God damn it, they’re going to laugh! But I have the sinking feeling that their laughter during “Death at a Funeral” was genuine, which seems to me yet another sign of the imminent collapse of the American empire.

I’m not alone in disliking “Death at a Funeral.” Yahoo! Movies has a critics’ roundup of the film in which Ebert is the only one of 10 critics who gives it an “A” (well, an “A-“). Only three of the 10 critics in the roundup give it a “B”, four give it a “C”, and two give it a “D” — with the average of the 10 critics’ ratings being a “C+”.

Ebert, who always has been one of my favorite film critics, if not my favorite film critic, seems to be losing it. He actually writes in his review of “Death at a Funeral”:

Consider the scene when Uncle Russell eats too much nut cake and is seized by diarrhea. And Norman [the character played by Tracy Morgan] wrestles him off his wheelchair and onto the potty, and gets his hand stuck underneath. Reader, I laughed. I’m not saying I’m proud of myself. That’s not the way I was raised. But I laughed.

Um, it wasn’t funny… Shitting, like farting, almost never is funny in a movie.

And while Ebert was aghast at the 11-year-old Hit Girl being pummeled by an adult male (whose pummeling of her is meant to demonstrate how evil he is and whose pummeling of her is in reaction to her own slaughter of several of his men), Ebert apparently found the treatment of the gay dwarf in “Death at a Funeral” to be hilarious (“They’re only human,” he says of the dwarf’s binders who try to conceal his accidental death. Um, but is the dwarf?)

I don’t know about Ebert as of late — Alzheimer’s?

Not only is Ebert out of synch with his cohorts in regards to “Death at a Funeral,” but in Yahoo! Movie’s critics’ roundup for “Kick-Ass,” Ebert is the only one of the 12 critics to give it a “D”. Only two of the 12 give it a “C”, five give it a “B”, and four give it an “A”, for an average of a “B”.

It might be time for Ebert to be put out to pasture.

And let’s make sure that, when he finally goes to that Big Movie Theater in the Sky, his body doesn’t fall out of the casket, or that we find out that he had a dwarf on the down low on the side all along.

Because that shit just isn’t funny.

My grade: D+

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Yeah, I’d Tickle That: Day Five (or, Frisky for Franco)

Actor James Franco receiving Harvard University’s Hasty Pudding recognition last year

Wikipedia notes that James Franco was elected by his high school senior class as possessing the “best smile.”

Oh, hell yeah. That’s a killer smile.

I haven’t seen Franco in much, unfortunately. The “Spider-Man” movies. “Milk,” of course, as Harvey Milk’s boyfriend Scott Smith, in which Franco is absolutely adorable. And I do believe that that’s it. But he makes my Top 10 list hands down.

Even when he’s made up to look rather scuzzy, as he was in “Pineapple Express” (which I haven’t seen), that smile is a slayer:

His entire face lights up when he smiles.

Who could resist?

Of course, Franco is reportedly straight… >Sigh.<

I need at least one hot gay celebrity for my Top 10…

P.S. I see now that Salon.com named Franco the “sexiest man living” for 2009 in November. He’s an excellent choice for that distinction. He certainly makes at least my top three.

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Various shit (in no certain order)

Just two days ago I wrote: “[President-elect Barack] Obama’s numbers in the public opinion polls are pretty fucking good. To a solid majority of Americans, Obama is fucking Superman. Or at least Batman….”

Today, this from The Associated Press:

Spider-Man has a new sidekick: The president-elect.

Barack Obama collected Spider-Man comics as a child, so Marvel Comics wanted to give him a “shout-out back” by featuring him in a bonus story, said Joe Quesada, Marvel’s editor in chief.

“How great is that? The commander in chief to be is actually a nerd in chief,” Quesada said. “It was really, really cool to see that we had a geek in the White House. We’re all thrilled with that.”

The comic starts with Spider-Man’s alter-ego Peter Parker taking photographs at the inauguration, before spotting two identical Obamas.

Parker decides “the future president’s gonna need Spider-Man,” and springs into action, using basketball to determine the real Obama and punching out the impostor.

Obama thanks him with a fist-bump.

Marvel comics have featured most presidents, but generally in walk-on roles, Quesada said….

Obama has said that as a child, he collected Spider-Man and Conan the Barbarian comic books. His Senate Web site used to have a photo of him posing in front of a Superman statue.

The Obama story is a bonus in Marvel Comic’s Amazing Spider-Man #583, available in comic book shops nationwide on Jan. 14 for $3.99 and is expected to sell out, with half the covers devoted to Obama.

Here’s the cover:

U.S. President-elect Barack Obama is pictured on the cover of ...

Reuters photo

Um, is it official now that Obamania is out of hand?

As much as I will miss writing “Illinois Gov. Rod ‘U.$. $enate $eat for $ale’ Blahblahblahblah,” apparently the impeachment process against him finally has begun.

Incredibly (or  maybe not so incredibly), Blahblahblahblah appointee former Illinois Attorney General Roland Burris appears to be on track to replace Barack Obama as a U.S. senator for Illinois.

The Democrats cave in to the Repugnicans, so why shouldn’t they cave in to Democrats waving the race card?

Gee, how are we doing with that “change” thing that we were promised? Let’s see:

The United Nations reports that as many as 250-plus Palestinian children have been slaughtered in Israel’s latest aggression, but Obama still reserves his right to remain silent on the matter.

Israel has the right to nip it in the bud, you see, to slaughter Arab children before they have the chance to grow up to be “terrorists” in Occupied Palestine (a.k.a. Israel)!

A homophobe will deliver the invocation at Obama’s inaugural, and it looks as though Obama’s replacement in the U.S. Senate will be a man appointed by a crooked Chicago politician (wait — that’s redundant…).

Yeah, things are changing so fucking much that I just can’t keep up with all of this change!

… 

Speaking of dead Palestinian children, this is from The Associated Press today

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip – Tiny bodies lying side by side wrapped in white burial shrouds. The cherubic face of a dead preschooler sticking up from the rubble of her home. A man cradling a wounded boy in a chaotic emergency room after Israel shelled a U.N. school.

Children, who make up more than half of crowded Gaza’s 1.4 million people, are the most defenseless victims of the war between Israel and Hamas. The Israeli army has unleashed unprecedented force in its campaign against Hamas militants, who have been taking cover among civilians.

A photo of 4-year-old Kaukab Al Dayah, just her bloodied head sticking out from the rubble of her home, covered many front pages in the Arab world Wednesday. “This is Israel,” read the headline in the Egyptian daily Al-Masry Al-Youm. The preschooler was killed early Tuesday when an F-16 attacked her family’s four-story home in Gaza City. Four adults also died.

As many as 257 children have been killed and 1,080 wounded — about a third of the total casualties since Dec. 27, according to U.N. figures released [today].

Hardest on the children is the sense that nowhere is safe and adults can’t protect them, said Iyad Sarraj, a psychologist hunkering down in his Gaza City apartment with his four stepchildren, ages 3 to 17. His 10-year-old, Adam, is terrified during bombing raids and has developed asthma attacks, Sarraj said.

Israel says it is targeting Hamas in response to its repeated rocket attacks on southern Israel, and is doing its utmost to avoid civilian deaths. However, foreign aid officials note that civilians can’t escape blockaded Gaza and that bombing crowded areas inevitably leads to civilian casualties. The Israeli military has used tank and artillery shells, as well as large aerial bombs….

Indeed, all of Gaza has become dangerous ground.

Children have been killed in strikes on their houses, while riding in cars with their parents, while playing in the streets, walking to a grocery and even at U.N. shelters.

Sayed, Mohammed and Raida Abu Aisheh — ages 12, 8 and 7 — were at home with their parents when they were all killed in an Israeli airstrike before dawn Monday. The family had remained in the ground floor apartment of their three-story building, while the rest of the extended clan sought refuge in the basement from heavy bombardment of nearby Hamas installations.

Those in the basement survived. The children’s uncle, Saber Abu Aisheh, 49, searched [today] through the rubble, a heap of cement blocks, mattresses, scorched furniture and smashed TVs.

He said Israel gave no warning, unlike two years earlier when he received repeated calls from the Israeli military, including on his cell phone, that a nearby house was going to get hit and that he should evacuate.

“What’s going on is not a war, it’s a mass killing,” said Abu Aisheh, still wearing the blood-splattered olive-colored sweater he wore the night of the airstrike.

The Israeli military did not comment when asked why the Abu Aisheh house was targeted.

In the Zeitoun neighborhood of Gaza City, medics found four young children next to their dead mothers in a house, according to the Geneva-based International Committee of the Red Cross. “They were too weak to stand up on their own,” the statement said.

The Red Cross did not say what happened to the children, but noted that the Israeli army refused rescuers permission to reach the neighborhood for four days. Israel said the delay was caused by fighting.

Medic Mohammed Azayzeh said he retrieved the bodies of a man and his two young sons from central Gaza [yesterday]. One of the boys, a 1-year-old, was cradled in his father’s arms.

In the Jebaliya refugee camp, five sisters from the Balousha family, ages 4, 8, 11, 14 and 17, were buried together in white shrouds on Dec. 29. An Israeli airstrike on a mosque, presumably a Hamas target, had destroyed their adjacent house. Only their parents and a baby girl survived.

Israel accuses Hamas of cynically exploiting Gaza’s civilians and using them as human shields. The military has released video footage showing militants firing mortars from the rooftops of homes and mosques.

“Israel wants to see no harm to the children of Gaza,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. “On the contrary, we would like to see their children and our children grow up without the fear of violence. Until now, Hamas has deliberately prevented that from becoming reality.”

Rocket fire from Gaza has disrupted life in Israeli border communities, and with the latest intensified militant attacks, hundreds of thousands of Israelis are in rocket range. Schools are closed and fearful Israeli children rush into bomb shelters at the sound of air raid sirens.

In the ongoing chaos of Gaza, it’s difficult to get exact casualty figures. Since Dec. 27, at least 750 Palestinians have been killed, according to Gaza Health Ministry official Dr. Moawiya Hassanain.

Of those, 257 were children, according to the U.N.’s top humanitarian official, John Holmes, citing Health Ministry figures that he called credible and deeply disturbing.

“We are talking about urban war,” said Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, the Jordan-based spokesman for UNICEF in the Middle East and North Africa. “The density of the population is so high, it’s bound to hurt children… This is a unique conflict, where there is nowhere to go.”

Successive generations of Gaza children have grown up with violence, part of the accelerating conflict with Israel. In the late 1980s, many threw stones at Israeli soldiers in a revolt against occupation. In the second uprising, starting in 2000, some were recruited by Hamas as suicide bombers.

Sarraj, the psychologist, said he fears for this generation: Having experienced trauma and their parents’ helplessness, they may be more vulnerable to recruitment by militants….

If Israel truly wanted to stop slaughtering Palestinian children — then Israel would stop slaughtering Palestinian children.

Israel, by slaughtering scores of innocent Palestinians, seems to want to guarantee itself a constant supply of future Palestinian “terrorists” — so that Israel can maintain its perpetual “victim” status.

It’s  long past time for the rest of the world to hold Israel — and its long-time partner in war crimes and crimes against humanity, the United States — to account. It’s not “terrorism” only when an Arab or a Muslim kills someone.

In this Monday, Jan. 5, 2009 file photo, Palestinians carry ...

Associated Press photo

Palestinians on Monday bury three of their children slaughtered by Israel, the perpectual “victim.”

“For the last eight years, President Bush has led our country with firm determination and a steady hand in the face of numerous challenges and crises. He restored honor and integrity to the White House and protected America from another terrorist attack.”

That’s how Repugnican National Committee chair Mike Duncan began a fundraising e-mail sent out today that stupidly redundantly was titled “Grateful Gratitude to Our President.” (Yes, I’m on the enemy’s e-mail list.)

How will history regard the job that George W. Bush has done over the past eight years?

Bush and the Bushies claim that one day history will vindicate the second Bush administration (yeah, right), but today, Americans are pretty fucking happy to see Bush II go.

A recent CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll showed that only 31 percent of Americans would rate Bush’s eight-year job performance as “good” or “very good,” while 40 percent would call it “poor” or “very poor” — with an additional 28 percent calling Bush the worst. president. ever. (Yes, that’s a full 68 percent who rate the second Bush administration as somewhere between “poor” and the worst administration ever.)

The number calling George W. Bush the best president ever? Um, fewer than 1 percent…

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