‘Maleficent 2’ Announced

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Disney fans rejoice! The much loved Maleficent franchise is not over yet. In an exclusive article, Deadline announced that a sequel to the blockbuster hit is in the works. The original film cost a whopping $180 million, but seeing as it brought in $760 million worldwide, it’s no wonder Disney is taking another crack at it. Not to mention it was just a really incredible film.

While little information has been released about the film, a script penned by Linda Woolverton is in the works and Angelina Jolie is rumored to reprise her role. This is a big deal given that the actress typically has a “no-sequel” rule attributed to the Tomb Raider franchise. She hasn’t signed onto the project yet but was once quoted saying, “there might be an opportunity to play [Maleficent] again.” The character was a childhood favorite for her.

There’s nothing to point toward Elle Fanning being involved with the project but Joe Roth will produce again. There is also no word on whether Robert Stromberg will be back directing.

If you ask me, it’s way too soon to release this news. The way things work in Hollywood, nothing is set in stone until the script is locked and that doesn’t seem to be the case here. Fingers crossed this thing actually gets off the ground.

Photo by Disney.

Source: Deadline

Kick-Ass 2 Review

Kick-Ass 2
Genre – Comic Book/Action
Director – Jeff Wadlow
Cast – Aaron Taylor-Johnson & Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Christopher Mints-Plasse (Superbad), Jim Carrey, Donald Faison (Scrubs, Clueless), John Leguizamo (Ice Age)
Alluring element – A sequel to the 2010 movie about home-grown superheroes based off the original Kick Ass comics
Check it out if you liked – Kick-Ass, Watchmen, violent action movies, comic book movies
Plot – 8
Acting – 9
Representation of Genre – 10  
Cinematography – 8
Effects/Environment – 9
Captivity – 10
Logical consistency – 9
Originality/Creativity – 7 
Soundtrack/Music – 8
Overall awesomeness – 9

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In a world saturated in comic book movies already, the Kick-Ass franchise well-represents the minority of the lesser-known stories. Unlike the hoards of comic book inspired films before it, Kick-Ass didn’t have fifty plus years of lore to pull from. All it had was one eight-issue run to create a fully-enveloped universe. There was no Batsuit to fit into, no Lois Lane to save and no Avenger to come save the day. Instead, Kick-Ass uses frequent fanboy references to characters of all nerd mythos. Come to think of it, I don’t know any other instance that the words “Batman” and “Stan Lee” are used together in the same movie. In doing so, Kick-Ass really makes viewers feel they are getting an entirely new experience. I also felt that the struggles of our main characters were much more relatable than those of the blockbusters hits. Struggling with superpowers is cool I guess, but what about just getting the crap kicked out of you for trying to stand up for what’s just? My childhood was much closer to the latter. Another great trait of the film is it’s ability to play as a comic book, full of Comic Sans panel transitions and bulging out character introductions.

The transition from comic book to film might have been done so well that few people have any idea it was based off a comic book to begin with – which, to me, is a big nod to the creator, Mark Millar, and the film’s director, Jeff Wadlow. Millar’s story is so well-crafted, with just as many witty comebacks and touchy feelings as there are gruesome violence and adult (like, SUPER-adult) language. There is a vast cast of characters that complement each other and the dialogue alone has enough momentum to carry the film to the end, which should be noted is very different from the book’s plot. All star talent like Jim Carrey and Donald Faison are great additions to the crew as Colonel Stars & Stripes and Dr. Gravity, respectively. Carrey serves almost as a father-figure to new “superheroes”, mirroring the same relationship that Hit Girl had with Big Daddy. However, as hard at Nicolas Cage tried, and believe me he tried, he’s just too corny to pull off being a badass superhero, especially one that was a cheesy rip-off of Batman to begin with. The charisma of Colonel Stars & Stripes reverberates throughout the film and he’s genuinely likable as an actor for the first time since Fun With Dick and Jane.

I can't tell who is the more convincing psycho.
I can’t tell which is the more convincing psycho.

Colonel Stars & Stripes’ merry band of misfits, Justice Forever, is comprised of various inspired citizens with tragic “origin stories,” especially a suspiciously familiar Battle Guy whose parents were shot in an alley behind the opera house. Or maybe that was Batman’s origin, whatever. Another is a slender gay man that battles against bullies and discrimination while refusing to wear a mask because “it reminds him too much of being in the closet.” My favorite, though, has to be the middle-aged married couple in Knicks-colored jumpsuits, trying to avenge their son’s death. On the other side of the spectrum is the Motherfucker and his Toxic Mega-Cunts (Sidenote: in case you were wondering if this was going to be a family flick, I can tell you now that it is not. You’re probably better off taking the kids to see American Pie.) Formally the Red Mist, The MF’er is bent on the destruction of Kick-Ass and all that he holds dear after Kick-Ass blew his dad up with a bazooka. I mean, vowing revenge is one thing, but dressing up in your mother’s BDSM (oh God, I wonder how many searches for BDSM will bring views here. How disappointing!) outfit and calling yourself a supervillain might be taking it too far. It’s a  archetypical approach that often feels heavy-handed through the film from Christopher Mints-Plasse. McLovin has managed to typecast himself after just one film (Superbad) and has really lost his charm by trying too hard to be a douchebag supervillain. I haven’t figured out if I dislike the acting or the character, but I just really can’t stand that Motherfucker.

Oh, how the times change.
Oh, how the times change.

The same dark and violent humor from the original returns in Kick-Ass 2, bringing back the same formula, but turning up the intensity – more death, more brutality and more foul language (most of which is handed out by Hit-Girl). Contrary to the popular belief that this is pointless and gratuitous, I feel that the tone of the movie and the book are both very dark and violent, in the same way that Sin City and Watchmen portray a bleak and dangerous outlook on their worlds. In fact, the movie actually pulled a few punches instead of unleashing its graphic content on us to prevent some bloodshed and sexual violence making it on screen and avoiding those scenes with awkward humor. That’s not to say Kick-Ass 2 is full of warm fuzzies. After the Sandy Hook massacre, supporting actor Jim Carrey came on the record of saying that after such a tragic act, there’s no way he could support that level of violence. I see when he is coming from, but I do not agree. After the Aurora theater shooting last year during The Dark Knight Rises, nobody rushed to condemn Batman and his use of violence. The truth is, Kick-Ass 2 is one of the most violent comic book movies you can watch, but it is also keen on showing the consequences of that violence and goes far to make clear that it is not something to be glorified. Dressing up and playing superhero isn’t a game. The most violent urge I had after watching the movie was to find a DARPA “sick stick” and use it in line at the DMV.

Another dynamic to the movie is that Hit-Girl is actually the main character. Although Kick-Ass is the title character, Chloe Grace Moretz has just as much screen time and character development as her male counter-part. She actually refers to herself as the Batman to Kick-Ass’ Robin throughout the film and is constantly saving Kick-Ass’… ass, training him and teaching him to be a better hero. It’s funny, because even though this is a Marvel book, there are deeper comparisons to DC Comics’ Batman and Robin – beyond the one that’s mentioned in the trailers. When Big Daddy dies at the end of the first Kick-Ass, hit girl is left grieving in a way that begs asking the question “what would happen if Damian Wayne survived Batman at 15 years old?” Both Damian Wayne and Mindy Macready are callous, trained killers that have a stubborn issue with authority. In this analogy, Kick-Ass plays Nightwing, an older more stable family-figure that brings Robin/Hit-Girl back from the darkness to find deeper meaning and guide them back on the right path. It’s an interesting angle that makes me appreciate the writing a little more.

Kick-Ass 2 has a lot to say, but the message can get muddled amongst the Tarantino-level violence and harsh language, but overall it is a great follow-up to an original idea. In a lot of ways, the sequel actually surpasses the original in terms of supporting cast and character development. The action scenes are on a larger scale and the comedy keeps you from crying from the tragedy. Its great writing leaves it open for a third installment to play out in a way that the comic book (ongoing) has a noticeably different direction than the movies.The Kick-Ass franchise is not just creating its own universe, but reflects a very real part of society in which people try to go out and make a difference doing the very thing that Justice Forever does in the movie. One thing that is transparent is that these real life superheroes aren’t gimmicks, well at least all of them. If you want to dress up and fight crime, you need to go out and do it. Or just watch this movie. All the reviews I’ve seen on it have been quite polar, but I recommend going out and seeing it for yourself to decide how much ass it really kicks.

Thanks guys! We'll see you in the third one.
Artist John Romita, Jr. and Writer Mark Millar getting super-photobombed by Dr. Gravity

Easter Eggs

Even past the above-mentioned connections, Kick-Ass 2 pays homage to comic book mythology in a number of ways. During the scene where Justice Forever christens their new hideout, all the heroes line up and take a picture very reminiscent of the photo that the Watchmen take when they form the team. Kick-Ass also wears an ironic “I Hate Reboots” Star Wars shirt to bed. Also, you can find references to other Marvel and Mark Millar work throughout the film, all found in Kick Ass’ room. Colonel Stars & Stripes is actually two different characters in the comics, Colonel Stars and Lieutenant Stripes, with Stripes being the other founding member of Justice Forever with Colonel Stars.

Written by Sherif Elkhatib

King of the Stars

A short time ago, in a galaxy really close by, a king was anointed.  On January 25th, 2013 it was announced that J.J. Abrams will direct what’s sure to be the next most highly anticipated Sci-Fi film of the century, Star Wars Episode VII.  The official announcement came, after a week of rumors and speculation, that Kathleen Kennedy the new Lucasfilm President (or as I like to call her, George Lucas Episode 2) and her staff had selected the next director for the first of three Star Wars sequels.  J.J. Abrams is best known for his involvement in the TV series Lost (exec. producer), Alias (exec. producer) and Fringe (exec. producer) as well as his exploits as movie director in Mission Impossible III, Super 8, and the most recent Star Trek films.  Okay, let’s nip this issue in the butt right now… CALM DOWN … Yes, you!  You who on some level is somewhere between appalled and dumbfounded that the new leaders at Lucasfilm have already resorted to borrowing something from the rival Trek universe for this revival of the glorious legacy that is Star Wars!!  Just close your eyes, take a deep breath and then do the following.  Open up IMDB, scroll down the list of J.J. Abrams’ involvements and as you read, count out on your hands the number of things that sucked on that list.  If you somehow managed to tally enough to need two hands, go over the list again and this time, count how many things REALLY suck.  Down to one hand or less?… I thought so.  With that helpful exercise out of the way let’s take a step back.

While the above paragraph may have led you to believe that I’m convinced Abrams will do a great job in his new directing role, think again.  In fact, in my mind, J.J. Abrams has just placed his head on the Guillotine block for all to see.  Whether or not the executioner (me and the collective Star Wars community) decides to drop the blade will be determined by his actions as a director in what is likely to be the most important movie of his career.  As he awaits his judgment day I will remain cautiously and skeptically optimistic.  I thought a good deal on how I was going to write this piece.  And while I must join the hoard of bloggers and fans crafting lists of demands that Abrams must follow should he wish to make good movie and spare himself decapitation, I’ve done my best to refrain from such rigid thought processes.  Instead I thought this: If I, a die-hard fan, could give J.J. Abrams one piece of advice or pose a single request, I would do so in one sentence.  Two words in fact:  Irvin Kirshner.

For those of you who don’t know who Irvin Kirshner is, he was the brilliant mind and talent that directed Star Wars Episode 5: The Empire Strikes Back.  For those of you who don’t know me, know that this film is my favorite of all time – not just of the six films, but of ALL films.  Let me make my best attempt to tell you why Empire is my favorite movie of all time in just a few sentences.  Empire has it all.  From action and drama, to comedy and suspense, to romance and despair, Episode 5 is a shining example of what is great about movies.  This film, whose predecessor appealed largely to a Sci-Fi community, took another step out of the proverbial box and caught the interest of everybody.  For those who weren’t satisfied with repetitive action and adventure, we found thought provoking themes in the teachings of Yoda and the lost legion of ancient Jedi.  For those who were tired of the good guys always winning, we found a story of darkness and a bleak conclusion.  For those who were weary of predictability, we found utter shock at the terrifying truth of Vader’s identity.  For those who didn’t want to take their girlfriend to the latest chick-flick found compromise as the love story between Han Solo and Princess Leia was just as compelling as the action sequences.

But what was it that made these parts stand out?  What made them so enthralling that it would be viewed by most as the best of the entire series?  The characters.  It was more than just the story, and the ships, and the giant space slug.  It was watching a three-foot green doll emote like it was real.  It was watching Leia and Han softly kiss each other for the first time in the confines of the Millennium Falcon.  It was watching the horrified reality dawn on Luke’s face as he came to learn that the most evil and feared man in the Galaxy was his father.  It…was…acting.  Acting at its very finest.  And it was Irvin Kirshner that brought this out of our heroes (and villains).  Kirshner knew what it meant to be a director.  He was dedicated to his audience through his characters.  Without concerning himself with fitting his characters into the world Lucas had created, he let the world fall in around the actors.  It wasn’t forced or contorted for the genre – it was one of the most organic and consuming portrayals this Husher has ever seen.  It is this mind frame that I hope Abrams adopts in his new role.  No matter who casters hire, what plot is composed, how much CGI is used, or if we have to suffer through Gungans and Ewoks again, Abrams has the opportunity to immerse his audience in the same way Kirshner did 33 years ago.  The pressure is on and any degree of egomania is sure to result in a disaster worse than the Hindenburg and Casey Anthony combined.  But there is time and resources.  Disney and its impressive little empire will do well to recognize their role in this undertaking and allow and encourage Abrams to play his accordingly.  In three-years’ time I want to write about how I could feel Abrams commitment to me, the viewer, the fan to taking me back…A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away.  J.J. Abrams, may the Force be with you.

written by Taylor Lowe