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Movie Reviews (4/1/15)

Movie: Kick-Ass 2
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****
Notes: What was once shocking is now passé - the actors have grown up just enough so that they don't look like kids anymore, and thus the magic of bloody pugilism against minors becomes moot. Now the franchise has to rely on writing and performances to get by. Our hero, Kick-Ass, bored and sidelined, joins up with a group of urban, self-made heroes just as his nemesis returns under a new guise. Much of the film appears to be a paean to the fringe superhero hobbyists that really do prowl some city streets, documented recently in "Superheroes" and "Confessions OF A Superhero." Our protagonist and Hit Girl are both a little older and a little less edgy, but Christopher Mintz-Plasse seems to have it the worst off, going from a corrupted outsider to a perverse clown. Jim Carrey also appears for less than eight minutes of film, unrecognizable as a grizzled ex-mafia military hero. The story is solid and, given that there will be no encore, a good enough high-note to go out on. Loads of action and plenty of character, it's hard to figure how this almost feel-good sequel could be related to its ultraviolent, taboo-shredding predecessor. Generally a good, easier-to-swallow view.

Movie: The Summit (2012)
Rating: ***1/2 out of *****
Notes: If you've ever asked why a mountaineer risks his life to climb a dangerous mountain, this film will not answer your question. It documents, through archival footage and dramatization, the events of August 1st, 2008 when eleven climbers died on the mountain known as K2. When you fall off a mountain, there's very little violence until you hit bottom, so the viewer is spared the sight of most end results. However, that's not the worst part - what's truly chilling is watching these precarious flies on the wall disappear off ledges, plummet down steep inclines, and get wiped off sheer faces by a momentary blip of falling ice. That's it, you're gone. At any moment, you expect the towering dome of stressed snow near the peak to simply break off and obliterate everyone, but that's not what happened that day. Rather an unlucky series of unfortunate events all occurred within a short timespan. Meanwhile, the views are astonishing and acrophobia-inducing; the interviews and footage is often so heavily-accented as to be unintelligible; and the post-mortem goes on a bit long. But if there was ever a doc to make a viewer want to take up climbing, this ain't it.

Movie: It Follows (2014)
Rating: *1/2 out of *****
Notes: An understated, sleeper indie hit turns out to be a sleepy, underwhelming drudge. Plot: A teenager contracts something curse-like via unprotected sex that directs a monster that can look like anyone to wander slowly and inexorably in a straight line to kill her, visible to only those in the heirarchy of sexual encounters. Filmed in a bleary haze in Detroit with a chiptune soundtrack, it appears for all intents and purposes like a no-budget artsy throwaway from the early 80s. The opening scene attempts to set the tone with a "Scream"-like intro that ends in a static image of body horror. But there's minimal subsequent gore as the girl and her friends spend the whole movie running away, waiting around for it to show up, then running away again, waiting, running, etc. The gimmick is that the viewer receives no explanation, backstory, or history about the monster - it's a complete enigma from beginning to end. There seem to be hints dropped, cinematography choices, and script decisions that suggest there's a puzzle to be solved, but no - the director has stated the deliberate intention to leave that data blank, all evidence to the contrary being red herrings. There 's heavy-handed suggestion of a message about mortality or HIV, but none so much as the middle finger given to the audience by simply ending the movie abruptly in the middle of a scene with no resolution. Quirky and unique, yes. Scary, engaging, or satisfying? Definitely not.

Next: American Psycho, Ender's Game, All Is Lost

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