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LION'S GATE

MOVIE INFO

Director:
Matthew Vaughn
Cast:
Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Nicolas Cage, Mark Strong, Carlos Besse Peres, Garrett M. Brown, Clark Duke, Evan Peters, Deborah Twiss
Writing Credits:
Jane Goldman, Matthew Vaughn, Mark Millar (comic book), John Romita Jr. (comic book)

Tagline:
A new breed of superheroes will be revealed.

Synopsis:
“How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero?” When Dave Lizewski – ordinary New York teenager and rabid comic-book geek – dons a green-and-yellow Internet-bought wetsuit to become the no-nonsense vigilante Kick-Ass, he soon finds an answer to his own question: because it hurts. But, over coming all the odds, the eager yet inexperienced Dave quickly becomes a phenomenon, capturing the imagination of the public. However, he’s not the only superhero out there – the fearless and highly trained father-daughter crime-fighting duo, Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, have been slowly but surely taking down the criminal empire of local mafioso Frank D’Amico. And, as Kick-Ass gets drawn into their no-holds-barred world of bullets and bloodletting with Frank’s son Chris, now reborn as Kick-Ass’s arch-nemesis Red Mist, the stage is set for a final showdown between the forces of good and evil, in which the DIY hero will have to live up to his name. Or die trying ...

Box Office:
Budget
$28 million.
Opening Weekend
$19.828 million on 3065 screens.
Domestic Gross
$48.043 million.

MPAA:
Rated R

DVD DETAILS
Presentation:
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio:
English DTS-HD MA 7.1
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles:
English
Spanish
Closed-captioned
Supplements Subtitles:
Portuguese
Spanish
Chinese
Thai

Runtime: 117 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 8/3/2010

Bonus:
• Audio Commentary with Director Matthew Vaughn
• “Ass-Kicking Bonusview Mode”
• “A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass” Four-Part Documentary
• “It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass” Featurette
• “The Art of Kick-Ass” Galleries
• Marketing Archive
• DVD Copy of Kick-Ass
• Digital Copy


PURCHASE @ AMAZON.COM

EQUIPMENT
Panasonic 50" TH-50PZ77U 1080p Plasma Monitor; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.

RELATED REVIEWS


Kick-Ass [Blu-Ray] (2010)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 99, 2009)

When well-established superheroes move to the big screen, they often achieve box office gold. When cult heroes make the shift… not so much. We saw this with the disappointing $107 million take of 2009’s Watchmen, and history repeated itself via the $48 million gross of 2010’s Kick-Ass.

Though it made less than half of Watchmen’s money, however, Kick-Ass actually feels like the bigger success. Watchmen came with high expectations: it adapted a legendary graphic novel and was the first film from director Zack Snyder after the huge success of 2008’s 300.

Those factors left Watchmen with a lot of high hopes, whereas Kick-Ass was a much more modest affair. The source material – a 2008 short-run comic series – boasts little of the public awareness that Watchmen earned over the decades, and director Matthew Vaughn lacks any big hits on his résumé. His first two – 2004’s Layer Cake and 2007’s Stardust didn’t exactly make him a household name.

Add to that a meager $28 million budget, and Kick-Ass looks like a reasonable financial performer, though I’d certainly hesitate to give it more credit than that. Well, at least it did well enough to spawn a sequel – and Vaughn landed the high-profile X-Men prequel due in 2011.

Nerdy teen Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) wonders why no one’s ever attempted to become a real-life superhero. He decides to make his dream a reality when he makes a costume and dubs himself “Kick-Ass”.

Kick-Ass’s first attempt at heroics doesn’t go well; Dave ends up stabbed in the stomach and then with broken bones after he gets hit by a car. Dave recovers quickly and actually comes out stronger than before, as a nerve problem leaves him impervious to pain and metal implants give him a sturdier skeleton.

This allows Dave to become “Kick-Ass V2”, and he gains a major Internet following when he thwarts a gang-related beating. The hero’s popularity inspires imitators such as pubescent Hit Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz), her mentor Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and teen Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). We follow their adventures and learn about their backstories, all of which lead toward a confrontation with crime kingpin Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) – Red Mist’s father, by the way.

When a fairly long text gets adapted to the screen, it usually needs to jettison a lot of detail and exposition. That goes for Kick-Ass as well. Though an eight-issue comic series doesn’t sound like it’s very long, it still delivers more depth than a two-hour movie can convey.

This means that Kick-Ass can suffer from inconsistent pacing as it bounces from one character to another. Granted, it doesn’t pack a particularly large roster of participants; the aforementioned Watchmen needed to work with a significantly bigger array of characters.

Nonetheless, with four main “heroes”, one villain and some supporting civilians, Kick-Ass needs to work through quite a few roles, a task made more complicated since they all need their own “origin stories”. Whenever a superhero series launches, it needs to explain how the hero and villain(s) came to be. This fills a lot of time when the movie deals with only one lead, so the presence of others complicates matters.

Not that this flick treats them all equally. Given the title, one might expect Kick-Ass/Dave to get the majority of the screen time, and one would assume correctly. He dominates the first act and remains a major aspect of the film as it progresses, though the focus tends to shift toward the other three costumed characters and somewhat away from Dave; he’s still an important participant, but he just doesn’t occupy our attention as much.

Even though Dave gets plenty of screen time, he never quite develops beyond the Peter Parker template. All of the heroes come with obvious inspirations; Kick-Ass emulates Spider-Man, Big Daddy is Batman, and both Hit Girl and Red Mist give off a Robin vibe. (Hit Girl plays a more apparent Robin role, but Red Mist goes down the sidekick path as well, and his costume sure has a Robin feel.)

Could the movie do more to develop the characters? Sure, but I imagine time constraints make that more difficult. Still, I’d like to see them more as unique personalities and less as adaptations of more famous heroes. This remains especially true for Dave/Kick-Ass, since the Spidey overtones are so glaring. Yeah, I get that the character in some ways attempts to mock Spidey – entire scenes are lifted almost directly from the 2002 film - but it doesn’t quite work; Kick-Ass feels more like a rip-off than a parody.

The entire film walks the line between spoof and homage, and it can’t quite decide which it favors. The movie rarely plays as the straight superhero movie I think I’d like it to be; its self-awareness occasionally works – especially in the clever first act – but it gets a little tedious after a while.

The manner in which the movie winks at the audience also robs it of potential drama. Kick-Ass works best as a giddy romp; when it attempts to deliver emotion, it fails. We’ve spent too much time with it in semi-parody mode that we just can’t buy into the feelings when it asks us to do so.

Kick-Ass is definitely a more violent and graphic film than most superhero adventures, and that factor seems likely to make Hit Girl a polarizing character. The idea of an 11-year-old who spouts profanity and kills with glee won’t rub a lot of people the right way, and I admit that the part borders on tasteless at times.

What makes Hit Girl work? The fact that her sequences present easily the movie’s most active and dynamic. As designed, Kick-Ass is a lame hero, but Hit Girl’s the real deal. Of course, her exploits are over the top and absurd, but that’s appropriate for this sort of film. Just because Kick-Ass tries to exist in a more “real” world than most superhero flicks, that doesn’t mean it totally abandons fantasy.

As we see when Hit Girl appears, Kick-Ass occasionally hits the mark, and it’s never far from entertainment. The situations and characters boast enough vivacity to keep us at least moderately engaged. However, Kick-Ass still feels like something of a missed opportunity, as it lacks the consistency to dazzle. It’s a decent ride but not a great one.


The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A-/ Audio B+/ Bonus A

Kick-Ass appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. I felt happy with this consistently excellent presentation.

At all times, sharpness looked great. I noticed no signs of softness, as the movie remained concise and accurate. Jaggies and shimmering weren’t concerns, and the flick lacked edge enhancement. Source flaws also failed to materialize in this clean transfer.

Though most modern action flicks go with stylized tones, this one stayed with a bright palette. The costumes and other elements came out with lively hues that looked quite vivid and satisfying. Blacks were dark and dense, and shadows demonstrated good clarity. If any concerns popped up here, I didn’t see them; this was a fine transfer.

While not quite as impressive, the DTS-HD MA 7.1 soundtrack of Kick-Ass more than satisfied. The soundfield opened things up well, though not quite to the degree one might expect from this sort of film. The various action sequences used the different channels in a compelling manner, but just not to the consistent degree I anticipated from a big superhero flick.

Still, that’s a minor complaint, as the soundscape delivered a lot of vivid material. Fights, gunfire, explosions and other such elements filled the room in a positive way. These boasted nice localization and movement, and they blended together smoothly. The entire package came together well.

Audio quality pleased. Speech was concise and natural, without edginess or other issues. Music showed good range and vivacity, while effects worked nicely. Those elements came across as accurate and full, with solid low-end response and positive definition. All of this was good enough for a “B+”.

Quite a few extras show up here. We open with an audio commentary from director Matthew Vaughn. He provides a running, screen-specific look at cast, characters and performances, production design, music and cinematography, some budget issues and editing, effects and stunts, story/adaptation, costumes, influences/inspirations and a few other areas.

Vaughn sags occasionally, but he usually provides a bright, engaging take on his film. He throws out some praise but also isn’t afraid to criticize problematic aspects of the production, and he shares stories about problems that occurred during the shoot. Vaughn delivers an enjoyable, informative chat.

(Favorite moment: when Vaughn accidentally calls actor Christopher Mintz-Plasse “McLovin”. Early in the track, Vaughn mentions that the actor hates to be called that, and he states that he hopes Kick-Ass will give Mintz-Plasse a new public persona. However, about 57 minutes in, he slips and refers to the actor as “McLovin”, a statement that comes with a pause in which you can almost hear him internally call himself an idiot.)

For something similar, we go to the Ass-Kicking Bonusview Mode. Essentially, this offers Vaughn’s commentary mixed with interview snippets and behind the scenes footage. Throughout the “Bonusview”, we hear from Vaughn, co-composers John Murphy and Henry Jackman, production designer Russell De Rozario, screenwriter/co-producer Jane Goldman, director of photography Ben Davis, comic co-creator/writer Mark Millar, co-creator/artist John Romita, Jr., producer Tarquin Pack, assistant stunt coordinator Max White, 2nd unit DP/steadicam operator Peter Wignall, and actors Aaron Johnson, Garrett M. Brown, Lyndsy Fonseca, Evan Peters, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Duke, Mark Strong, Chloë Grace Moretz, Jason Flemyng, and Kofi Natei. During the segments that differ from Vaughn’s commentary, we get notes about music, cast, characters and performances, sets and locations, the film’s depiction of violence, photography and effects, and stunts.

“Bonusview” doesn’t satisfy because it does little more than offer “commentary plus” – except when it’s “commentary minus”. While it presents the vast majority of Vaughn’s chat, it omits occasional remarks, so fans who want to hear the entire track will still have to screen it separately.

And if they do so – like I did – then “Bonusview” becomes a bit of a chore to watch. It does branch off to comments from others and behind the scenes video, but those components aren’t all that frequent; Vaughn’s commentary remains the most dominant element. This means we get a great deal of repeated information, and there’s no easy way to view just the non-commentary material. In isolation, “Bonusview” works pretty well, but it’s too redundant if you also listen to the commentary on its own.

Next we encounter a four-part documentary entitled A New Kind of Superhero: The Making of Kick-Ass. This show goes for one hour, 54 minutes, four seconds as it includes notes from Vaughn, Pack, Millar, Goldman, Romita, Johnson, Moretz, Mintz-Plasse, Strong, Duke, Fonseca, Davis, De Rozario, Jackman, Murphy, costume designer Sammy Sheldon, makeup/hair designer Fae Hammond, prosthetic supervisor John Schoonraad, special effects supervisor Dave Harris, visual effects supervisor Mattias Lindahl, Chloe’s mom Teri, fight coordinator Peng Zhang, stunt double Greg Townley, 2nd unit armorer Rob Grundy, 3D supervisor Peter Jopling, 2D supervisor Stuart Farley, and actor Nicolas Cage. “Kind” examines the project’s origins and development, script, story and character topics, the film’s tone and depiction of violence, cast and performances, costumes and visual design, stunts and various effects, actor training and fight choreography, weapons and vehicles, editing, music, post-production, distribution and reactions.

With nearly two hours at its disposal, “Kind” has the time to really dig into the film’s creation, and it does so well. We get a plethora of solid information, and not a ton of repetition after the commentary and “Bonusview”; “Kind” manages to find other angles to discuss the flick. It’s a terrific program.

For a glimpse of the movie’s source material, we head to a featurette called It’s On! The Comic Book Origin of Kick-Ass. It lasts 20 minutes, 36 seconds and provides remarks from Millar, Romita, colorist Dave White, and inker Tom Palmer. As expected, they cover many aspects of the comic’s roots, development, characters and situations. They provide a dynamic discussion of the subject and give us a good history of the book.

Under The Art of Kick-Ass, we get some galleries. “Storyboards” covers seven sequences and lets us see still screens with four panels of art per page. “Costumes” delivers 14 screens of photos and art for the superhero outfits, while “On-Set Photography” provides 77 shots from the shoot. “Production Design” offers six plans for locations, and “John Romita Jr. Art for the Film” gives us 38 drawings from the comic’s artist; these let us view rough versions of elements that appear in the final film. Some of these components work better than others, but all deserve a look.

Finally, the Marketing Archive gives us promotional materials. We find two trailers – including an “R”-rated “redband” trailer that focuses on Hit Girl – as well as ad campaigns for both North America and international locales. The former features 22 ads, while the latter provides seven more promo posters. I expected the international ads to simply adapt the NA ones, but they’re unique. The NA promos work the best, though, especially the ones that spoof old WWII campaigns.

On a second platter, we find a DVD Copy of Kick-Ass. Note that this offers a barebones release; I believe the separate retail DVD will have some extras, but this one just includes the movie. Still, it allows fans who’ve not gone Blu yet to watch the flick and “future-proof” themselves.

A third disc throws in a digital copy of the flick. As always, this allows you to slap the movie onto a portable viewing device or a computer. I like to use these as shiny coasters.

Kick-Ass provides something unusual as a superhero flick, but it doesn’t become a totally satisfying one. While it boasts good general entertainment, it falls short of greatness, and its ambitions occasionally override its effectiveness. The Blu-ray features excellent visuals, very good audio, and a strong roster of supplements. Although I’m not wild about Kick-Ass, I still like it, and the Blu-ray presents it in a very satisfying manner.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.3043 Stars Number of Votes: 23
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Review Archive:  # | A-C | D-F | G-I | J-L | M-O | P-R | S-U | V-Z | Viewer Ratings | Main