Sunday, 25 August 2013

Dark Review - Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass 2 Review

By Casey Douglass

Image ©Universal Pictures

If you have no memory of watching a film featuring a weedy guy in a green and yellow wetsuit, or a young girl dressed in purple with a severe case of potty mouth, go and watch Kick-Ass right now! I’ll wait. If these characters conjure up mental images of jet-pack mounted mini-guns and mugs of hot chocolate stuffed with marshmallows, welcome to the sequel. While it’s not absolutely necessary to have seen the first film before viewing the second, you will get the most from it if you have.

The film begins at the tattered ends of the first one, with Mindy Macready / Hit-girl (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) adjusting to a life without her dead father (Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy). A friend of his has taken her in, and is trying to push her into a more normal, less violent life. Mindy takes to it like a boxer to needlework. It feels strange and scary and she would much rather be out ridding the streets of criminal scum.

Her partner in heroism Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has also given up the mask, partly due to feeling like some kind of false superhero that, while inspiring to others, was nothing compared to Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. Dave decides to engage Mindy as his tutor and trainer, wanting to finally become the real deal.

It is not long into the film where a botched training session draws a lot of unwanted attention to “masked-vigilantes” and the two part company to pursue their own attempts at the lives they want to lead. For Mindy, this is being forced ever deeper into High-school culture, concerns of having to fit in and to be popular, all the while having the feeling that she is selling her soul for the price of a promise to her dead daddy. She pushes her Hit-Girl persona so far back into the closet that Aslan might soon be seen sporting a purple wig and swearing at Mr. Tumnus. Dave faces similar issues as he follows the opposite path and embraces his superhero alter-ego even more, having to fit into a new group of like-minded individuals and seeing if he can survive without Hit-Girl’s aid.

But what would a sequel be without the return of the evil mastermind in waiting Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Having seen Kick-Ass propel and explode his father with an RPG from the top floor of a skyscraper, the boy certainly has vengeance issues. After the fortuitous death of his kill-joy mother, he reinvents himself as The Motherf**ker and sets about building his own evil empire to choke the city and to sever the veins of his father’s killers.

This ladies and gents, is the film. The story arcs of each character collide and then veer away at intervals, forming a deadly dance of dressing up in funny clothes and crude name calling, with the occasional brutal fight or one-upmanship in between. I think that it trundles along at a nice pace, the action never outstaying its welcome, nor the quieter scenes dragging on indefinitely. The humour that ran through the first film is still as pure in the second. If anything, the swearing is even more inventive and some of the one liners even more memorable.

The real strength of the second film is the ensemble of other characters that flesh out both sides of the conflict. Kick-Ass teams up with Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his crew of heroes, which also include Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison) and Night Bitch (Lindy Booth). The villainous ranks are also swelled, most notably by Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina), a giantess of a woman who’s epic stand-off with four or five police cars using nothing more than what is at hand is well worth the price of admission on its own.

The technical side of the film is very well done, with the variety of costumes and colours on screen a nice reminder of the comic book origins of the series. Every scene is clear and precise, and the accompanying score carries it all along nicely to its grandstanding conclusion.

While I did enjoy the film very much, it does suffer from the usual malady of simply being a sequel. While it does change the formula here and there, it did feel like a case of having “seen it all before”, even if it has been expanded and polished to within an inch of its life. I think that may be the reason the fighting was more brutal and the swearing more deviously placed; to cover the notion that it is all a bit samey. It is definitely still well worth watching, and if you loved the first, I am almost certain you will love this sequel.

Rating : 4.5/5

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Dark Pondering - My First Writing Competition Result

Dark Pondering Image
I entered my first paid entry writing competition last month. The reason it has taken me so long isn't due to any aversion to paying, just that I didn't really feel ready until now. I had entered a couple of free to enter competitions over the last few years but didn't place in those.

When I found Darker Times, I felt that I could write the kind of story that I really enjoyed and so felt it was definitely worth a go. A few days ago the results for July 2013 were published and I was very happy to see that both of my flash fiction stories were placed. One as a runner up, one as an honourable mention. I was disappointed not to win of course, but to have two get a mention was almost just as good for me. Even better, they will hopefully be published later in the year as part of the Darker Times Anthology, which I can actually buy from Amazon as a paperback! I know it's not quite the same as having your own book published but mentally, I feel that I am another step along the path that I want to travel with my writing.

I will certainly be entering again, and other competitions too. If I can repeat or better that result, I will feel more able to push ahead and to at least have some confidence in the idea that I might not be deluding myself as to my abilities or my feasibility as a writer.

The winning entries, along with the runner up and honourable mentions can all be seen here, and are well worth a read if you like dark things.

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Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Dark Review - Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons

My review of the latest Starbreeze game Brothers : A Tale of Two Sons is now up on Geek Syndicate. A novel game that sees you control two brothers (get out!) simultaneously. I really love it and it's dark story. Check out the review here on Geek Syndicate.