Director: Roseanne Liang
Starring: Chloë Grace Moretz, Beulah Koale, Taylor John Smith, Nick Robinson, Callan Mulvey, Benedict Wall, Byron Coll, Joe Witkowski
When approaching a patently absurd film like Shadow in the Cloud,rather than asking whether or not it is going be good, the better question is whether or not it is going to be the right kind of stupid. Because there is a right kind of stupid. We enjoy different films in different ways. While some want us to lean in and immerse ourselves empathetically, presenting us with believable scenarios and relatable characters, others need us to sit back and embrace the fiction. When a film with an incredible, silly premise thinks it is the former it can be tiresome and disengaging. But when it possesses the self-awareness to know it is the latter, to wink at its audience, allowing filmmakers and audience alike to embrace the absurdity, then the stupid can become sublime. It’s a balance that the Fast and Furious franchise managed to find by its fifth instalment, and one that the genre-bending Shadow in the Cloud nails instantly.Continue reading
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Starring: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey, Morris Chestnut
In 2010, amidst a flurry of superhero comic book adaptations, Kick-Ass managed to capture the public’s attention by creating a little controversy. An adaptation of the comic book series by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr, this story of an average high school student who wonders why no one has ever tried to be a superhero before and decides to give it a go not only featured quite graphic violence, but a foul-mouthed vigilante played by a then 11-year-old Chloë Grace Moretz. Three years later Kick-Ass and Hit Girl are back in a film which provides more of the same.
Like a number of superhero sequels before it, Kick-Ass 2 is primarily a film about escalation. After his mob boss father was killed by Kick-Ass at the end of the first film, Chris D’Amico is bent on revenge. Abandoning his superhero persona, the Red Mist, in favour of a new name that isn’t fit for print he decides to become the world’s first super villain, assembling a squad of costume clad henchmen to help him take down Kick-Ass. At the same time, the emergence of Kick-Ass has inspired numerous others of varying degrees of skill and sanity to don costumes and join him as vigilante crime fighters.
It is in its approach to these characters that Kick-Ass 2 is quite interesting. Where other superhero stories ask what prompts someone to become a superhero, the Kick-Ass films ask a slightly different question of their characters. What type of person chooses to put on a costume and fight crime? The film then presents us with two groups. The first are the incredibly naïve but well intentioned, who are ill-equipped for what they are endeavouring to do and are ultimately a danger to themselves. The second group are the psychotic, who have no appreciation for appropriate action, just a black and white concept of justice, and are ultimately a danger to everyone.
After being a scene stealing support character in the original, Chloe Gracë Moretz’s Hit Girl becomes the co-lead character in this sequel and once again she provides the movie’s x-factor. Now 15 years old, Mindy Macready promises her new guardian that she will turn her back on crime fighting. Her subplot, which delivers many of the films laughs, delves into an idea that will be common knowledge to many teenagers, that the social world of high school can be every bit as savage as anything you might come across in a dark alley in the bad part of town.
While Kick-Ass 2 lacks some of the shock value of the original, it is still a very violent film, though it is notable that martial arts and hand-to-hand combat seems to have replaced the gun violence that was so prominent in the original. Kick-Ass 2 was also not without controversy in the lead-up to its release. Jim Carrey, who had joined the cast as vigilante Colonel Stars and Stripes, announced on Twitter in June that he would not be taking part in any promotion for the film as he had experienced a change in heart in light of recent events – most notably the Sandy Hook high school shooting which occurred only a few weeks after he filmed his scenes – and could no longer “support that level of violence.” The course language has also been dialed up. Obviously a 15-year-old has to go further to confront you with language than an 11-year-old does.
Fans of the first film will still find plenty to like about this sequel – the action sequences are well done and there are more than a handful of laughs – but ultimately despite being every bit as violent and profane as the first it is neither as shocking or as clever.
Rating – ★★★
Review by Duncan McLean
Director: Tim Burton
Starring: Johnny Depp, Michelle Pfeiffer, Eva Green, Helena Bonham Carter, Chloe Grace Moretz
I was once a big Tim Burton fan and still have a soft spot for him in my heart, but I must admit that in recent years I approach every new Burton film with a great deal of cautiousness. Despite being one of the best known directors in Hollywood today, Tim Burton hasn’t quite been on song in the last decade. After making some really original and brilliant movies in the 1990s (Edward Scissorhands, Batman, Ed Wood), in recent years his movies tend to have underwhelmed. Movies like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland didn’t really need to be seen because they were exactly what you imagined when you first read that Tim Burton was going to make them. There wasn’t a surprise. While Dark Shadows doesn’t really see Burton breaking any new ground – which will be fine by his many fans, but frustrating to those growing tired of the usual Burton/Depp shtick – it does prove to be a bit of a return to form.
An adaptation of a cult 1960s supernatural soap opera, Dark Shadows is the latest in the line of recent Burton adaptations and re-imaginings following on from Alice in Wonderland, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Sweeney Todd. The film follows the story of Barnabas Collins, a vampire whom having been buried alive for almost 200 years is dug up in 1972 and sets about trying to restore his family’s seafood business to its former glory after it has been run into the ground by business rival Angelique, who also happens to be the witch who turned Barnabas into a vampire.
Burton and Depp were both great fans of the series in their youth, so unlike some of the other adaptations which feel like they’ve just applied the Tim Burton formula to a pre-existing story, in this case the affection they clearly have for the source material really comes across. The contrast between the garish sights and sounds of the 1970s and the more gothic elements of the story really plays to Burton’s style, which has always been a mix of gothic and kitsch. Depp plays Barnabas as an old-fashioned, Romantic-era vampire, and much comedy is drawn from Barnabas struggling to get his head around 1970s culture. Dark Shadows is easily Burton’s funniest film since Ed Wood, possibly ever.
For someone who was getting used to being disappointed with Tim Burton’s films, Dark Shadows was a pleasant surprise. This is not Tim Burton at his absolute best, but it is as close as he’s been for a number of years.
Rating – ★★★★
Review by Duncan McLean