Recommended films showing in Salt Lake City for the week of August 16 – August 22, 2013
1. Pacific Rim (PG-13)
2. The Conjuring (R)
3. The Way, Way Back (PG-13)
4. The Wolverine (PG-13)
5. Man of Steel (PG-13)
1. Monsters University (G)
2. Despicable Me 2 (PG)
3. Planes (PG)
4. Turbo (PG)
5. Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (PG)
1. Fruitvale Station (R)
2. The Way, Way Back (PG-13)
3. Lee Daniel’s The Butler (PG-13)
4. Unfinished Song (PG-13)
5. Much Ado About Nothing (PG-13)
Kick Ass 2
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Genre: Action, Comedy, Crime
Recommended To: Fans of the comic book and original film.
Synopsis: After a hiatus Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) joins a group of costumed vigilantes, Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) tries to be a normal teenager and Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) reinvents himself as a super villain with an incredibly vulgar name.
Review: I thought Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of Kick-Ass was one of the most enjoyable films of 2010. Vaughn typically bowed out of Kick-Ass 2 and was replaced by writer/director Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf). To say that Wadlow is a downgrade would be an understatement as Kick-Ass 2 fails to live up to its predecessor as it lacks the heart and real human connection that made the first film more than just a comic book cash-in.
Certainly Kick Ass 2 has its moments and I’d be lying if I didn’t say I mostly enjoyed it. The problem with the film is that it doesn’t feel as original or inspired. Gone is the gleeful joy of becoming a masked superhero and in its place is the monotony of being a street vigilante. When Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and the rest of their friends teamed up as the Avengers it worked cinema magic. Pairing Kick-Ass with Battle Guy, Night Bitch, Dr. Gravity and Colonel Stars and Stripes doesn’t have the same impact. Instead the picture just seems crowded with less interesting characters as Hit-Girl plays dress up by not wearing her costume.
Jim Carrey, who plays Colonel Stars and Stripes, recently made headlines by saying Kick Ass 2 was too violent. Well, he’s probably right to a degree in that the film does have a shockingly high body count, but he should have known what he was signing on for. The comic and the first film didn’t shy away from violence. I find it all a bit too cartoonish to be upset.
2.5 out of 5 Stars
Director: Robert Luketic
Starring: Liam Hemsworth, Gary Oldman, Amber Heard
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Recommended To: Those looking for a middle-of-the-road thriller with the sex appeal of Amber Heard and Liam Hemsworth paired with B-grade performances by Gary Oldman and Harrison Ford.
Synopsis: After blowing his team’s big pitch Adam Cassidy (Liam Hemsworth) is suckered into trying to steal the prototype of a revolutionary mobile phone from his former boss’s old mentor.
Review: My biggest problem with Paranoia is that it never really addresses paranoia in the digital age. It uses aspects of how our mobile devices could be used to track our every move, but for the most part the film is just a by-the-numbers heist film with a few twists thrown in at the end to spice things up a bit. It suggests that the whole story is motivated by the desire of the have-nots to rise to the level of the previous elite, but the social commentary is all bark and no bite. The performances are merely adequate as Oldman and Ford growl their way through their lines, Hemsworth plays the heartthrob lab rat forced to chase the cheese and Amber Heard stands around looking pretty.
Lee Daniels’ The Butler
3 out of 5 Stars
Director: Lee Daniels’ The Butler
Starring: Forest Whitaker, Oprah Winfrey, David Banner
Genre: Biography, Drama
Recommended To: Fans of The Help looking for a slightly stronger view into racism and the rise of the civil rights movement.
Synopsis: The rise of the civil rights movement acts as a backdrop to the story of Cecil Gaines’ (Forest Whitaker), a butler at the White House who served eight presidents.
Review: The Butler (the Lee Daniels’ part of the title was added following a dispute with Warner Bros.) is a strange film. Leaving the theater I was quite pleased with what I saw. I was thrilled by Oprah Winfrey’s performance and couldn’t help but wonder what might have been if she never established herself as a talk show host. I also enjoyed Forest Whitaker and thought the script and Lee Daniels’ direction did a nice job showing the horrors of racism more effectively than The Help or 42 while still keeping a PG-13 rating.
However, when I sat down to really think about the film I can’t deny that Danny Strong’s script is simply too unfocused. It runs its way through eight presidencies and decades of racial tension in a way that feels more like Forrest Gump, a work of fiction, rather than a story that is based on a real person’s life. Reducing historical figures and events into one-liners and silly gags works fine in a world that is at least partially a fantasy; it doesn’t hold up in a biopic where history is as important, if not more important, than the character caught in the middle of it.
The Butler is a good film; we were just led to believe that it was going to be a great one. Had the writing been more mindful of the big picture, rather than just the man carrying the polished silver tray, it could have reached its potential.