Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – Review

It just wouldn’t be Christmas without watching at least one Shane Black film. The director sets almost all of his films around this particular time of year and Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is one of my favourites.

Harry Lockhart, played by Robert Downey Jr. is the narrator and main character of Kiss Kiss Bang Bang and as in a lot of his films, is pretty much Robert Downey Jr. This movie was released in 2005 and I think it was a major contributor to him getting the role of Tony Stark in the Iron Man film. The character is erratic but well-meaning. The film also stars Val Kilmer as Perry van Shrike and Michelle Monaghan as Harmony Faith Lane.

Harry is a thief turned actor who, while on a detective lesson with Gay Perry (for a role) witnesses a murder. He and Perry follow the threads and uncover a plot that is very involved and even connects to a former best friend of Harry’s from his hometown (Harmony). The film naturally unfolds as the characters find out more about the conspiracy and start to piece it together. Things we saw early in the movie are worked back into the plot and everything gets tied up in a nice little bow (like a Christmas present). Harry cuts in and out of the story with his self-aware narration that lightens the film up in some of the darker parts. If you haven’t seen this before but have seen Black and Downey Jr.’s other film Iron Man 3 it will feel very familiar to you. Harry is telling a story that has already happened, in this case, he is making it into a movie.

Shane Black has a very interesting way of setting his films at Christmas which amplifies his creative choices. His noir style of characters on bright night time backgrounds is enhanced by Christmas Lights and snow. In Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, the LA Christmas Party settings are some of the most striking. While it is not often a major contributor to the films, and it isn’t in this one, Christmas (as Shane has said in interviews) make lonely people lonelier and, in some cases can make the bringing together of or reuniting of a family that much more important.

The three leads are fantastic together, mind you, I’m a fan of the actors in almost everything they’re in. While Robert Downey Jr. is very much his usual character in this film, there are some nice intricacies that shine through. Val Kilmer is probably my (and most likely everyone else’s) favourite character, “Gay” Perry is the ‘wise sage’ in this film who with his detective skills works out the case long before the audience of Harry does. Sure he makes mistakes from time to time but he’s a private investigator, most of them are schmucks anyway. Rounding out the cast is Michelle Monaghan whos character Harmony is a twist on the Femme Fatale trope. She’s sexy and smart but also fallible which just gives a nice little extra depth to the character, something you don’t often get in Film Noir.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a great crime-action film with interesting characters and a funny side. All set over the backdrop of Christmas, it is a must watch for this time of year. You won’t be disappointed.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang: Above Average

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History of Superheroes in Movies

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While there were superhero movies in the 1940s, 50s and 60s it wasn’t until the 1978 film Superman opened the door for comic books and their characters to be taken as serious movie ideas, but that faded over ten years until 1989’s Batman put them back on the map again. Unfortunately, with the exception of Batman Returns (1992) the popularity of superhero films declined again until 2000 when X-Men got it right.

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Since X-Men superhero movies have been on the up and up. Production companies started taking the concepts seriously again rather than trying to make it comical and camp (I’m looking at you Joel Schumacher). 2002 saw Spider-Man swing on to the silver screen and both the X-Men and Spider-Man films spawned major film franchises for Fox and Sony respectively. But we’ll get to the major production companies later. Fox continued it’s push with Daredevil (2003), X2 (2003), Elektra (2005) and Fantastic Four (2005) while Sony (Colombia) released Hellboy and Spider-Man 2 in 2004. Following the success of
these franchises DC and Warner Bros. took a different angle and rebooted the popular Batman franchise with Batman Begins (2005) which had a much darker tone to it than the Marvel films that were being released at the time. Superhero films cashed in on the success of the early 2000 hits for a few more years X-Men: The Last Stand and Superman Returns in 2006 and Spider-Man 3 and Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer in 2007 (which might I add were all franchise killers) but come 2008 something clicked in the minds of Marvel, DC, production companies and audiences… Superhero Movies could be better than exciting. They could be exhilarating the perfect escape for people young and old just like the comic books they were based on were for people years ago.

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2008 was a big year for Superheroes, with Marvel’s start of their Cinematic Universe (Actually owning the rights to these characters this time) Iron Man blasted on to the screen, reviving the dwindling superhero audiences and Robert Downey Jr.’s career at the same time. On top of that the reboot of the Hulk franchise with The Incredible Hulk re-established another character for something in the future. Iron Man would have been the walk-away hit of superhero films that year had the follow-up to Batman Begins not been released. The Dark Knight wowed audiences and box officenumbers proved that superhero movies were not just a sub-class of action films. They were their own genre. Mixing comedy and drama with action, visual effects and the characters people of all ages could enjoy. The superheroes were here.

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The late 2000s brought us a prequel to X-Men in X-Men Origins: Wolverine and a surprise cult classic with Watchmen. The start of the new decade brought in more of the independent heroes in to the spotlight, Kick-Ass and Super depict average joes standing up and answering the call against villainy and Iron Man 2 delved deeper in to the mystery behind S.H.I.E.L.D and why they were showing up in all these Marvel movies. 2011 was another big year for Marvel with Thor and Captain America: The First Avenger setting up for the biggest superhero team up in film history. Fox released a re-invigoration of X-Men going back to the early days of Professor X in X-Men: First Class and DC unfortunately missed the mark with Green Lantern. Last year blew me away though with The Avengers, The Amazing Spider-Man and The Dark Knight Rises three of the four big superhero movie powerhouses put everything they had in to these films and they were incredible.

The superhero film genre has risen over the last twenty or so years to become films that provide drama, comedy, explosions and an all round entertaining visit to the cinemas.

The Avengers – Review

What can I really say about The Avengers? Joss Whedon has directed a possible contender for movie of the year? I could say that. The Avenger’s truly is the ultimate Super-Hero film? I could say that too. Hell I’ve even heared people say it was better than Batman… The truth is Marvel’s The Avengers is absoultely, 100%, with out a single itty-bitty shadow of a doubt one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. You might say; “Thats a bold claim Nick, how can you really say that?” Well I can confidently say that because I have only been seen a handful of movies that I have walked out of and thought, ‘I wouldn’t change a thing’. The Avengers is one of them. It had everything I was expecting and more and I would not change one single thing about it. Joss Whedon has really raised the bar in Super-Hero films. I might even say; “Watch out Nolan”.

S.H.I.E.L.D. (the Strategic Homeland Intervention, Enforcement and Logistics Division in the Marvel Cinematic Universe) has the Tesseract, the glowing blue cube as seen in Captain America. During a routine inspection by S.H.I.E.L.D. Director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson), a visitor from a strange world arives through a gate way created by the Tesseract, that visitor… is Loki Laufeyson (Tom Hiddleston). After an attack on the S.H.I.E.L.D. base, Loki makes off with the Tessract and some S.H.I.E.L.D. agents he has mind-controlled. He intends to hand over the Tesseract to the Chitauri and claim the Earth as his payment. Nick Fury will have none of that… AVENGERS ASSEMBLE!

Captain America – Steve Rogers (Chris Evans): The World War two veteran who was frozen in the arctict circle for about 70 years is back with a new suit and a new vision of the world. He’s dissapointed at what the world has become but still believes in the same ideals that America stood for during the War. Evans contiues to play the valliant Captain America very well, he has accepted that he is in the future and can’t go back and he is trying ever so hard to enbrace it… but it is difficult.

Iron Man – Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.): Tony Stark has a few new surprises in his suit this time around but it’s his quick wit agian that steels the spotlight. Downey Jr. and Whedon are a match made in heaven!

Thor Odinson (Chris Hemsworth): The god of thunder is sent by his father to put a stop to Loki and his plans. Once again, on of my favourite characters of the franchise does not dissapoint. Although out of the team he gets probably the least screen time (not by much though), Thor has a fantastic presence in the team and seems to be the target of many jokes.

The Hulk – Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo): Last played by Edward Norton in the film The Incredible Hulk, Ruffalo’s Banner is a very interesting character played very well. Ruffalo captures the bumbling scientist and tortured soul that is Bruce Banner in a way that the other actors of the role in the last few films (Eric Bana and Norton) havn’t been able to pull off. I wa very worried about having the Hulk on the team but I am convinced that it was a good choice… and I will say… the Hulk definately does, SMASH!

Black Widow – Natasha Romanoff (Scarlett Johansson): Joss Whedon loves his strong female characters and Black Widow is definatley one of them! We see a little more of her bad ass skill that we got a glimpse of in Iron Man 2 as well as her sexy demenor and a little of her back story involving her run ins with S.H.I.E.L.D. and their most  loyal (?) agent, Hawkeye.

Hawkeye – Clint Barton (Jeremy Renner): No need for that purple cowl, Hawkeye in this film proves that rangas can be bad ass! I have read articles that his shooting (with a bow and arrow) style is competely wrong but who cares? It’s a movie guys… serioulsy. I have to say I loved this character and I’d really like to see a spin off film in the next Avengers phase (see Cinema Forecast Week 16 & 17) to focus on the back story between Black Widow and Hawkeye. Even just a short would be good.

Secondary Cast members include Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury, Colbie Smulders as Maria Hill, Stellan Skarsgård as Erik Selvig, Clark Gregg as Phil Coulson and Gwenyth Paltrow as Pepper Potts.

It is so good to see such a huge cast all get enough screen time, this was my main concern going in to the film am I going to see Iron Man and Captain America hog the spotlight. But I didn’t and that is part of what made the film so damn good. You really felt like there was a team forming here and although the heroes had their differences, believe me the whole first act highlights this, when the Avengers assemble… my god is it worth it.

Technical Points: The film was converted in post in to 3D but to be honest… it’s not half bad. It’s your choice weather to see it in 3D or not seeing it in standard (2D) wont take anything away from the amazing film that it is. It brings a new maening to the Hero’s Journey (i’m calling it the Heroes’ Journey now) it keeps it simple with a fantastically developed 3 act-structure, which alot of films try to muck around with. Joss Whedon is brilliant at what he writes and directs and I would definately say that it’s the simplicity of the film that gave it the freedom that it needed. Everything is explained but I would recommend seeing the films in the franchise at least once first. Just so you get a scope of whats going on and where they’re up to in the story.

The Avengers is the perfect balance of action and comedy that the Super-Hero films of today have needed. It’s not meant to be completely serious… the films are based on comic books, I mean it works for Batman, but who says saving the world from aliens can’t be fun as well as deadly serious. Joss Whedon really does leave his mark on the franchise (in more ways than one) and the producers of the film have an option open for Joss to return to do The Avengers sequel in probably 2015 or 2016 (my estimate: based on the way the films are looking – Thor 2 and Iron Man 3 in 2013 & Captain America sequel in 2014). This is a film I would see again in a heart beat. It’s action-packed, funny, exciting, and a little bit sad. A true cinema expierence!

The Avengers: Well Above Average