DID YOU READ

“Kick-Ass”: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a superhero.

“Kick-Ass”: As far back as I can remember, I always wanted to be a superhero.  (photo)

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Reviewed at the 2010 SXSW Film Festival.

Matthew Vaughn’s “Kick-Ass” has one complicated relationship with fanboy culture — specifically the comic book superhero-loving variety. On one hand, it’s a kinetic, funny, violent and righteously entertaining flick that’s bound to please anyone with a soft spot for stories in which someone costumes up and fights crime, which, these days, is almost everybody. On the other, it’s a critique of that very fascination, suggesting that if you really want your life to be less ordinary, you should consider actually getting a life — escaping the escapism, bounding off the couch and, if you’re lucky, maybe even finding a way to get laid. Ready or not, here comes the meta-fanboy movie the world deserves, one that manages to have its cake and eat it too.

New York high schooler Dave Lizewski is unexceptional in every way except that he’s played by Aaron Johnson (also someday to be seen playing young John Lennon in “Nowhere Boy”), who’s so clearly going to be a big movie star that the idea of him being ignored by his female classmates requires a bigger suspension of disbelief than the events that unfold. Neither popular nor terminal nerds, Dave and his two best friends have been coasting through their teenage years, entertaining themselves with the aforementioned comic books, surfing the web and jerking off to thoughts of their English teacher’s considerable endowments.

03122010_kickass3.jpgIt’s frustration with that passivity and the fact that the majority of those around him seem to be living life as a spectator sport — like the man who sees the trio getting mugged in a parking lot from his apartment window and just shuts his curtains — that prompts Dave to make himself a costume out of a green scuba suit, yellow gloves and hiking boots (it never looks anything but ridiculous) and come up with an alter-ego: Kick-Ass. “Like every serial killer already knew, eventually fantasizing just doesn’t do it anymore” he observes in the running voice-over, and soon he’s trying to stop the two thugs who stole his wallet earlier from jacking a car. And, like anyone whose practical fighting experience is limited to air punches in front of a mirror, he’s woefully underprepared, and almost gets killed.

To use the treasured film critic term, scopophilia is what’s weighing on “Kick-Ass”‘s universe. Everyone is so steeped in media intake, from movies to television to graphic novels, that it’s warping their behavior — even the bad guys, a crime syndicate presided over by Mark Strong’s sadistic Frank D’Amico, seem to be styling themselves after people they’ve seen on screen. “I’ve always wanted to say this,” one smirks as he picks up some especially heavy weaponry. “Say hello to my little friend!” When Kick-Ass tries the superhero stunt again, attempting to save a man from a gang beating, he becomes an internet celebrity because the guy he asked to call 911 gathers a crowd who record the fight on their cell phones instead. And when he meets some “real” superheroes, a father and daughter pair who go by Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, doing enjoyably weird as opposed to “er, what’s going on here?” weird) and Hit Girl (13-year-old Chloe Moretz), they’re even deeper into comic book land than he is, with Cage’s character, otherwise known as Damon Macready, documenting their tale of tragedy and vengeance out panel by unhinged panel.

03122010_kickass2.jpgThe relationship between Macready and his child, real name Mindy, is a psychedelic swirl of aw-shucks, “Leave It To Beaver”-style nurturing and splatter-filled annihilation. (The one between Frank and his neglected son, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, is its own mix of regulation daddy issues — “Eat your oatmeal!” — and operatic villainy.) Mindy, a foul-mouthed four-and-a-half-foot dynamo who wears a mask and a purple wig when slicing through thugs as Hit Girl, of course walks away with the movie. Any urgings to stop gawping and start doing fall by the wayside in the face of a meticulously choreographed sequence in which a transgressively little girl destroys a dozen mobsters, reloading, slow-mo, in mid-air — why else do we while away beautiful summer afternoons in dark theaters if not to gape at ludicrous, glorious schlock spectacle like that? And though it muddies its message, “Kick-Ass” has to tip its hat to its own inner fanboy in those moments, or when the bloodied but triumphant Dave tells the kid with a camera the name he’s invented for himself, or in a euphoric finale enabled by a bit of earlier online shopping. We could all do with a little more engagement. That doesn’t mean we can’t still acknowledge when something’s totally sweet.

“Kick-Ass” will be released by Lionsgate on April 16th.

[Photos: “Kick-Ass,” Lionsgate, 2010]

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New Nasty

Whips, Chains and Hand Sanitizer

Turn On The Full Season Of Neurotica At IFC's Comedy Crib

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Jenny Jaffe has a lot going on: She’s writing for Disney’s upcoming Big Hero 6: The Series, developing comedy projects with pals at Devastator Press, and she’s straddling the line between S&M and OCD as the creator and star of the sexyish new series Neurotica, which has just made its debut on IFC’s Comedy Crib. Jenny gave us some extremely intimate insight into what makes Neurotica (safely) sizzle…

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IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a fancy network executive you met in an elevator?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon.

IFC: How would you describe Neurotica to a drunk friend of a friend you met in a bar?

Jenny: Neurotica is about a plucky Dominatrix with OCD trying to save her small-town dungeon. You’re great. We should get coffee sometime. I’m not just saying that. I know other people just say that sometimes but I really feel like we’re going to be friends, you know? Here, what’s your number, I’ll call you so you can have my number!

IFC: What’s your comedy origin story?

Jenny: Since I was a kid I’ve dealt with severe OCD and anxiety. Comedy has always been one of the ways I’ve dealt with that. I honestly just want to help make people feel happy for a few minutes at a time.

IFC: What was the genesis of Neurotica?

Jenny: I’m pretty sure it was a title-first situation. I was coming up with ideas to pitch to a production company a million years ago (this isn’t hyperbole; I am VERY old) and just wrote down “Neurotica”; then it just sort of appeared fully formed. “Neurotica? Oh it’s an over-the-top romantic comedy about a Dominatrix with OCD, of course.” And that just happened to hit the buttons of everything I’m fascinated by.

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IFC: How would you describe Ivy?

Jenny: Ivy is everything I love in a comedy character – she’s tenacious, she’s confident, she’s sweet, she’s a big wonderful weirdo.

IFC: How would Ivy’s clientele describe her?

Jenny:  Open-minded, caring, excellent aim.

IFC: Why don’t more small towns have local dungeons?

Jenny: How do you know they don’t?

IFC: What are the pros and cons of joining a chain mega dungeon?

Jenny: You can use any of their locations but you’ll always forget you have a membership and in a year you’ll be like “jeez why won’t they let me just cancel?”

IFC: Mouths are gross! Why is that?

Jenny: If you had never seen a mouth before and I was like “it’s a wet flesh cave with sharp parts that lives in your face”, it would sound like Cronenberg-ian body horror. All body parts are horrifying. I’m kind of rooting for the singularity, I’d feel way better if I was just a consciousness in a cloud.

See the whole season of Neurotica right now on IFC’s Comedy Crib.

The-Craft

The ’90s Are Back

The '90s live again during IFC's weekend marathon.

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Photo Credit: Everett Digital, Columbia Pictures

We know what you’re thinking: “Why on Earth would anyone want to reanimate the decade that gave us Haddaway, Los Del Rio, and Smash Mouth, not to mention Crystal Pepsi?”

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Thoughts like those are normal. After all, we tend to remember lasting psychological trauma more vividly than fleeting joy. But if you dig deep, you’ll rediscover that the ’90s gave us so much to fondly revisit. Consider the four pillars of true ’90s culture.

Boy Bands

We all pretended to hate them, but watch us come alive at a karaoke bar when “I Want It That Way” comes on. Arguably more influential than Brit Pop and Grunge put together, because hello – Justin Timberlake. He’s a legitimate cultural gem.

Man-Child Movies

Adam Sandler is just behind The Simpsons in terms of his influence on humor. Somehow his man-child schtick didn’t get old until the aughts, and his success in that arena ushered in a wave of other man-child movies from fellow ’90s comedians. RIP Chris Farley (and WTF Rob Schneider).

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Teen Angst

In horror, dramas, comedies, and everything in between: Troubled teens! Getting into trouble! Who couldn’t relate to their First World problems, plaid flannels, and lose grasp of the internet?

Mainstream Nihilism

From the Coen Bros to Fincher to Tarantino, filmmakers on the verge of explosive popularity seemed interested in one thing: mind f*cking their audiences by putting characters in situations (and plot lines) beyond anyone’s control.

Feeling better about that walk down memory lane? Good. Enjoy the revival.

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And revisit some important ’90s classics all this weekend during IFC’s ’90s Marathon. Check out the full schedule here.

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Get Physical

DVDs are the new Vinyl

Portlandia Season 7 Now Available On Disc.

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In this crazy digital age, sometimes all we really want is to reach out and touch something. Maybe that’s why so many of us are still gung-ho about owning stuff on DVD. It’s tangible. It’s real. It’s tech from a bygone era that still feels relevant, yet also kitschy and retro. It’s basically vinyl for people born after 1990.

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Inevitably we all have that friend whose love of the disc is so absolutely repellent that he makes the technology less appealing. “The resolution, man. The colors. You can’t get latitude like that on a download.” Go to hell, Tim.

Yes, Tim sucks, and you don’t want to be like Tim, but maybe he’s onto something and DVD is still the future. Here are some benefits that go beyond touch.

It’s Decor and Decorum

With DVDs and a handsome bookshelf you can show off your great taste in film and television without showing off your search history. Good for first dates, dinner parties, family reunions, etc.

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Forget Public Wifi

Warm up that optical drive. No more awkwardly streaming episodes on shady free wifi!

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Inter-not

Internet service goes down. It happens all the time. It could happen right now. Then what? Without a DVD on hand you’ll be forced to make eye contact with your friends and family. Or worse – conversation.

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Self Defense

You can’t throw a download like a ninja star. Think about it.

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If you’d like to experience the benefits DVD ownership yourself, Portlandia Season 7 is now available on DVD and Blue-Ray.