Is Kick-Ass 2 Too Violent?

I don’t really plan on answering the question I’ve posed. It’s one that keeps resurfacing from time to time and my opinions always change depending on the time, place, and content. I’ve written papers about violence representing some kind of cleansing, growth, necessary change, shock, etc. I’ve also pondered that maybe violence in video games should be treated more seriously than violence in novels or film because in most video games, the player is actually performing the acts of violence through a character (and I’ve been surprised by how intense and gory some of these games can be) and maybe there’s more risk of impressionability.  I would never ever (ever never) watch films that depict graphic violence similar to depictions of pornographic sex (things like Saw or Hostel), but more so because they will give me nightmares than that I have some kind of moral objections. On the other hand, I love all the violence in Game of Thrones and the abundance of severed body parts and the appearance of Raul Esparza’s spleen in Hannibal. Can we give that spleen an Emmy or something?

Now, none of the above regularly depict gun violence, except the video games. Could we say there’s something more artistic in the way Saw and Hostel find brutal ways to harm oneself and others in the most terribly painful ways using everyday objects, as opposed, let’s say, just shooting each other off? Is cannibalism somehow a higher form of murder (cut to classical music melody playing in Hannibal’s kitchen as he puts his gorgeously plated meat on a serving platter) than the quick death a bullet to the head provides?

Some might argue yes. That gun violence is an easy murder of power, i.e. I have a gun and you don’t therefore you die. But we could also see it this way- when a film shows a crazy Nazi surgeon sewing together one man’s mouth to another man’s butthole, there’s absolutely no way a viewer goes home thinking “hmm, that looks like a lot of fun!” When Eddie Izzard makes his victim’s torso looks like an opened can of worms, we don’t think, “hey, Eddie Izzard’s character is so manly and powerful.” Nazi scientist and Eddie Izzard are bad people, crazy people, and perhaps more importantly, people with means. Not only do they need enough of the crazies to actually do what they’re doing, but their methods of violence necessitate lots of research, genius, and money.

Nobody needs a biomedical education or perverse genius to wield a gun. Nobody needs thousands of dollars of equipment and a secret lair to shoot someone. Hell, even a kid can do it!

Like this one?

Which finally brings me to Kick-Ass. Now, I really enjoy the Kick-Ass series. Both Kick-Ass movies specialize in over-the-top everything. Lots of violence, lots of cursing, lots of drama, huge plot twists, big comedy, and big characters. There’s an “I don’t give a shit about subtlety” attitude in both films that is exhilarating. You can’t expect to wander into a screening and analyze it for cultural relevance and dramatic structure the way you go into The Avengers or The Dark Knight Rises (though I think you’d find your efforts mostly wasted in either of them to be honest, don’t hurt me).

Kick-Ass 2 has lots of fun characters, but doesn’t waste time on making them all complex and self-important. It establishes quick community, breaks that community, raises the stakes, and resolves its issues in a quick ninety minutes, all the while bringing character development and lots of humor, some of which is scatological. (Man, I thought I wasn’t supposed to analyze for dramatic structure…)

My good feelings about the film, however, do mean that I would take a ten-year old kid, like the one sitting a few seats away from me, to see the film. The opening scene of the film shows Hit Girl shooting Kick-Ass in the chest at close range while he is wearing a bullet-proof suit. No lies, it looked like a lot of fun. And if I were living in a community that glorified gun violence the way that many communities do, and I were a thousand times more impressionable, I might start contemplating becoming a gun-owner. Now, that’s nowhere near actually becoming a murderer, but it makes it one huge step easier.

But I still hesitate to denounce a scene like that as promoting gun violence. I’d be quicker to denounce photo-shopped magazine covers. In fact, I’d be quicker to denounce photo-shopping than a scene depicting bulimia in a film because a magazine cover tends to often ‘speak’ to consumers directly (‘YOU can lose 5 lbs. a week!) while a film locates the bulimia within a character’s storyline. I could also say that Kick-Ass 2‘s ending shows the consequences of violence, and perhaps a film might show the emotional and psychological effects of bulimia, but this is a case-by-case basis and I don’t think the film’s ending is didactic enough (nor should it be) to trump out all the scenes where shooting things looks like total fun.

There’s also the big gun-toting, ball-blasting, camouflage-wearing elephant (?) in the room and that’s… Jim Carrey. (I stand by my elephant image because Horton Hears a Who is a great movie.)

Das Tweets

Something had always troubled me about Jim Carrey’s refusal to promote the film, and this Flavorwire article hits it right on the nail. The key point of the article is that by denouncing the film, gun-control activist Jim Carrey is actually feeding into the pro-gun lobbies’ message that violent video games and films, NOT guns themselves, are the root of mass killings and gun violence.

This is bad, you guys. What’s worse is that he’s amazing in the film and, I believe, genuine about his activism. After watching the film, I thought that maybe Jim Carrey realized he’d have to defend playing a character who shoots up a mafia boss to interviewers who can’t function on a high-school critical thinking level, let alone do research on their topic. I’m guessing he couldn’t figure out what he to say when Piers Morgan asks him how he could criticize Charlton Heston and play Stars and Stripes at the same time without getting into theories of genre and entertainment mediums and alienating his audience. Maybe he needed a spokesperson like moi to beat off the angry crowds.

Whether Carrey believes in the film or not, the discussion on gun-control and gun violence depictions should continue.



Why the “Magic Mike” Musical Adaptation is the Best. Idea. Ever. (NSFW)

News broke this week that Magic Mike (or STRIPPED: The Channing Tatum Story) is being made into a musical. Here are a few reasons why you should put on your recording of Barbra Streisand and Judy Garland’s “Get Happy / Happy Days Are Here Again” and celebrate.

C’mon. Celebrate.

The creative team is, like, really good.

The creative lineup for the musical adaptation of Magic Mike is just as fine as the movie’s original cast. Tom Kitt and Brian Yorkey (Tony/Pulitzer-winners for Next to Normal) are writing the score, while Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa is writing the book. All three have exciting new musicals in the latter stages of development. Kitt and Yorkey’s If/Then, starring musical goddess Idina Menzel, is set for a Spring 2014 Broadway debut, while the musical version of American Psycho (book by Aguirre-Sacasa) will debut in London later this year. I see beautiful rock songs about tearaway pants on our future.

The storyline is actually made for a musical.

For those of you who haven’t seen the movie, Magic Mike follows Channing Tatum as he dreams to start his own business while working as a male stripper to pay the bills. That’s basically the dudebro version of Sweet Charity.

With less Bob Fosse and more… everything.

Meanwhile, he meets a nineteen-year-old kid who’s looking for work, and he helps him get into the stripping business (A Star Is Born redux). Add in Tatum’s love interest, the kid’s sister who wants to keep him safe from the perils of male strippertude (hello, Guys and Dolls), and you have a musical theatre plot combo breaker.

It can have a little more fun than the actual movie.

The film had some great, ahem, dance sequences, but the Stephen Soderbergh-directed piece ventured a little too far into the dark side. Musical theatre is a form that can’t help being comedic, and hopefully, the Magic Mike sequel can have more fun with its subject matter. Which is male stripping. Which is kind of hilarious.

But we all know the most important reason why this musical must be made…

There will be hot naked men to look at.

No offense to The Full Monty, but I especially look forward to a musical that has a ending sequence that looks more like this:

And I’m not alone. The demographics for Broadway audiences tend to run mostly female and mostly gay. Are many lady theatregoers not interested in seeing hot naked men? Of course. Are many gay male theatregoers not interested in seeing hot naked men? I guess. But nudity is still an audience draw, and it won’t be any different when Magic Mike is ready for its Broadway debut. With or without its pants on.

Shirtless Matt Bomer thanks you for your time.

Why Can’t James Franco Just Let Me Hate Him???

I hate you.

Lord knows I’ve seen the man fail time and time again. And fail he has in many, many ways. Depending on which movie you’ve seen, he’s either a terribly lazy, one-note actor, or he’s a brilliant leading man able to demonstrate depth and charisma. Lord knows we love to hate terrible party hosts, and Franco pretty much topped the list of worst hosts ever. His forays into poetry, writing, journalism, fashion, underground art, underground music (basically anything the man can get his grips on) have been a bit on the underwhelming side, but far better than most of his Hollywood peers who tried to similarly branch into other art forms. And then there are his multiple MFA’s, BFA’s, and continuing life as a student, part-time professor, which has gained plenty of media attention. Is he pretentious? A bully? Does his celebrity status give him privilege to present mediocrity as art?

Or does his celebrity status mean that his art is often presented as mediocrity?

I think that’s the central puzzle to Franco’s prolific career. Have we been taking him for granted this whole time? Has he been fooling us with his stoner movies and self-entitled attitude? Then why can’t we just tune him out?

I thought I could. And then this happened: Apparently, As I Lay Dying, written by, directed by, and starring (dontyaknowit) James Franco premiered at Cannes. And it got a good review. DAMMIT.

Here I was thinking that I’d be the one to write the best screenplay EVER to adapt a Faulkner novel (my choice is Sound and the Fury). Freaking Franco beat me to it.

So now I’m gonna have to pay attention to this man for at least another few months until the film’s premiere. And then I’ll probably have to praise him for the movie’s successes. Good grief.

Well, at least I can always fondly remember that one time Stephen Colbert OWNED him in Lord of the Rings trivia…

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