Kick-Ass

Columbia Pictures

There’s much to be mocked about sidekicks, one of the easier targets in film. We’re set up to picture a simultaneously meek and booming catchphrase-machine clad in a matching uniform, seemingly created solely to follow our protagonist around and hype them up on their journeys. While plenty of that variety exist, there’s a different and far more interesting breed of sidekicks who prove to be so much more — valuable assets who, really, are so much better than the leads in the first place. Here are seven sidekicks who are smarter and more capable than the heroes they’re supporting.

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Watchmen (2009)

Some superheroes have their origins in ways unavailable to your average person. Batman and Iron Man rely on their own personal well-funded technology. Captain American is a result of a highly complex super soldier program. Thor is a space alien god, which could also be said for Superman. And someone like Ghost Rider or Jonah Hex has his origins in the supernatural. Still, there are plenty of superhero origins that rely on pure chance, often a result of a horrible accident. That got me thinking… could an industrial accident really turn you into a movie superhero?

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Moonstruck Nic Cage

Few names conjure up as vivid an image of wildly over-the-top, scenery chewing acting than that of Nicolas Cage. In fact, YouTube hosts multiple compilations with worn titles like “Nicolas Cage Losing His Shit” featuring dozens of clips from a slew of different movies, spanning his whole thirty-year career. While it’s certainly true that watching Cage do flamboyantly odd things is quality entertainment, it’s also true—if all-too-oft forgot—that the man is a talented, legitimate actor. It’s nice to have a reminder. Here, then, are six performances where Nicolas Cage displayed subtlety and nuance:

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kick-ass

When Kick-Ass hit theaters in 2010, it tainted comic book movies for me. Bringing a sense of gore and grit to escapism, it would come to color other caped members of the genre. The most recent example is Man of Steel which features a hefty, highly debated death toll, but doesn’t feature much time for reflection because, of course, they needed to have a female soldier comment on how hot Superman is at the end. In a different view on the same neighborhood, Joss Whedon actually showed people being saved amid the destructive aftermath to his battle in The Avengers. Captain America earns the thanks of a grateful group, but is it realistic that an entire alien army stormed through downtown New York City with several flying football fields, but everyone was evacuated in a few minutes? It’s difficult to shake the potential for a death toll when you fictionally destroy that many city blocks, but Kick-Ass made the loss of a single life seem grisly and as powerful as a steaming locomotive.

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Kick-Ass 2

There have only been three adaptations of Mark Millar’s comic books thus far, but it’s impressive how faithful they’ve all been. Wanted drifts from the page a bit, but it still captures Millar’s often mean-spirited characters and worlds with reverence. Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2, while having their share of deviations as well, also hew closely to Millar’s intentions of showing a geeky teenager thrust into a violent world while wearing a goofy set of pajamas. There are violent consequences to Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) taking a crack at the life of a crime fighter, something few caped men face in modern superhero films even as whole city blocks are leveled. Both of the Kick-Ass films confront certain superhero tropes, but for Millar, it’s not done as satire. It springs from a far more genuine place. It’s also a bloody place, so when we spoke with the comic book creator, we got to talk about expanding expectations for a second outing and the danger of glorifying all the hits.

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IntroInterrogation

Any psychotic can smash someone’s fingers or beat a head to a pulp until they get what they want – and thanks to the spree of bizarre torture porn movies like Saw and Hostel, seeing people get cut apart is almost standard at this point. Still, filmmakers do manage to get creative every now and then, and from it we get a scene of brutality the likes of nothing before it. Shall we celebrate that? Oh, and warning – this is going to be painful.

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samantha

If you’re hoping for a deep exploration of the connection between women and firearms, Cathryne Czubek’s documentary A Girl and a Gun will fail you. There is little to this 76-minute film that isn’t very obvious and sometimes even oblivious. Or maybe the aim wasn’t to bother with the heavy psychoanalytic notions of guns being extensions of masculinity because of their phallic shape as much as their capability for dominance. It’s a light piece of nonfiction, not even going for much political address let alone agenda, in spite of the national conversation going on this year. As far as missing out on timeliness, though, it’s mostly a shame the doc was produced too soon to be informed by or point to Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, with its strong barrel-fellating imagery. There are a lot of film clips here, too. Shots from your basic female-heavy action movies, such as Terminator 2, Aliens, Wanted, Resident Evil, Kick-Ass, Kill Bill, Foxy Brown, and wronged-women dramas like Enough and Sleeping With the Enemy, as well as a few films noir (albeit with little recognition of the femme fatale character in general) and all the way back to Edison’s Annie Oakley short from 1894. No mention of Jean-Luc Godard’s famous line about how all you need to make a film is “a girl and a gun,” but that doesn’t exactly have anything to do with a girl with a gun. Besides, this isn’t a film studies documentary.

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ryan gosling vampire

Our first full week into the summer movie season, and there’s a lot to talk about. The first really big blockbuster of the year (and likely still the biggest by year’s end), Iron Man 3, has inspired a number of discussions about itself and about other superhero and summer tentpoles in the future. Meanwhile, we continue to get first looks at major event films coming out later in 2013, including anticipated sci-fi flicks The World’s End, Ender’s Game and Gravity. And as usual, we’ve thrown some speculative fun into our content mixer, such as imagining Ryan Gosling playing the villain in a comic book adaptation. Rob continued his coverage of a new film festival for horror fans, we said goodbye to one of the most important effects artists in film history and as for review we were quite underwhelmed by The Great Gatsby. I’ve selected the ten best, biggest and most popular movie news and feature stories of the week, none of which was mined from outside the FSR gates this time. So, start your weekend right after the jump.

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IntroSuperheroBeatdowns

The boring problem with almost every superhero is that if they existed in real life they would just win all the time. This is why we have super villains, of course, and this is why those super villains tend to get the upper hand at some point in the film. After all, what’s a good third act without some kind of obstacle to overcome? If your character can shoot fire from his or her nipples then the baddies better have some kind of ray gun that shoots ice pasties. Point is, we need a point where the hero gets their ass handed to them – something that some movies handle better than others. Here are eight of the darker moments where the hero hits rock bottom (usually in a pool of their own blood).

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Mark Millar

Fox hasn’t always been the most successful studio, as far as adapting Marvel comic books is concerned. Though their 2000 film version of X-Men is largely responsible for launching the current comic book movie boom, their more recent mutant movies haven’t been all that hot, and their takes on the Marvel-created Daredevil and Fantastic Four franchises haven’t been able to produce anything remotely up to snuff. Their treatment of their superhero movies has gone so far off the rails that they’re even set to lose the rights to the Daredevil property, as their attempts to get a new film together haven’t kept pace with the end of their contract. That doesn’t mean that Fox’s days of making Marvel movies are over, though. They’ve still got two more X-Men movies in the works in James Mangold’s The Wolverine and Matthew Vaughn’s  X-Men: Days of Future Past, and they’ve made a new commitment to taking another crack at the Fantastic Four franchise by bringing Chronicle director Josh Trank on for a reboot. That’s some powerhouse talent paired with some potentially lucrative material. And today Fox announced their next step toward getting their Marvel properties back under control: they’ve hired veteran comic book creator Mark Millar to come on as a creative consultant for all of the House of Ideas characters that are still under their control.

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Who doesn’t love watching teenagers fight? These days it’s just nice to see them doing something that gets them outside and moving around – not to mention the wonders it does for team building skills and self esteem issues. Compared to them sitting in a moist den somewhere playing Skyrim and housing six servings of Zesty Salsa Combos, youth violence isn’t the worst fate for our nation’s children. Anyhoo – Here are some of the better films that celebrate the time-honored tradition of kids punching each other to pass the time.

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Comic-Con. A place of joy. A place of wonder. A place of really awesome costumes. Thursday marked the start of New York Comic-Con 2011. Not nearly as land mark as SDCC (which some would say is a benefit), but certainly not at the bottom of the scrap heap. In a city bustling with the creative minds from all walks of life, it would only make sense that once a year, those creative minds come together for one giant weekend of awesomeness. And we’re here to bring you all of it.

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Like many of my fellow Rejects, I am currently recovering from the insanity that was Fantastic Fest 2011. Over the course of four days I viewed a relatively tame amount of films (10 – I’m not a champ this time around), each one, even the crap ones, expanding my movie watching mind. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that I selected the most sexually involved films I could, pausing briefly for a palate cleanser of adorable in A Boy and His Samurai, and I look forward to sharing some of my insights on the loneliness of loving a sex doll in the coming weeks. But for now, let’s jump right into the eccentricities of loving something we shouldn’t. As a sex writer, I’m constantly asked to voice my opinion on any frisky business ranging from the sweet nibbles of a new lover all the way to the “am I weird for liking this and that?” Typically, I provide a sort of get-out-of-jail-free card by giving a basic of sex-positive response along the lines of “you like what you like” or “your kink isn’t my kink, but your kink is okay” (unless the kink involved is so taboo I have to flip a table and walk away). But last week the same topic kept coming up: The sex appeal of the bad girl. Yes, there’s nothing new in feeling attracted to a girl who can beat you up, take your money, and then kiss you on the cheek before she leaves […]

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It’s tricky tackling a comic book film. For starters, one is generally adapting fairly fantastical ideas. Secondly, if a comic book film gets too serious, it can easily lose a sense of fun and self-awareness. Director Matthew Vaughn seems to have found a good middle ground for his superhero epic, X-Men: First Class. The genre favorite director could not have made more of a 180° turn from Kick-Ass to X-Men: First Class, both in terms of scope and his approach to the genre. Kick-Ass was the first – or most notable – modern comic book film to turn the genre on its bloody ear. Now, Vaughn is working in the genre he just previously deconstructed, which, as Vaughn says, makes him even better suited for it. Here’s what the candid and always confident Matthew Vaughn had to say about not taking comic book properties too seriously, making a film for his broadest audience ever, and reading fanboys on the internet.

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Culture Warrior

This editorial features some spoilers for Hanna and Kick-Ass. Consider yourself warned. In preparation for this post I ran a quick Internet search on child assassins and found this video from New York Magazine. While I wasn’t promised a video exclusively on child assassins here, and instead got something that explores the notion of child killers at large, this video conflates two categories of child killers that I think deserve remarkably different types of consideration. The great majority of killings performed by children in this video are from horror movies. From Rosemary’s Baby to The Omen to The Brood to Firestarter to the other Omen and beyond, the child/killer is an exhaustively repeated horror trope to the point of cliche (and is often confused with the simple overlapping category of “scary children,” like in The Shining and The Sixth Sense). But every so often a child-killer horror film comes along that works in line with the formula (The Children, anyone? Bueller? Okay, how about Let Me In?), reminding us why child killers still have the capacity to be engrossing and entertaining even if they’ve lost the ability to be outright horrifying: because they play on our society’s veneration of childhood innocence, replacing the ignorant bliss of childhood with benevolent, malicious intent to do harm to the much taller individuals that surround them. But child assassins are quite different from the overall category of child killers. And while two recent films in two subsequent spring movie seasons that feature child assassins, […]

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In many ways, the end of the year is just like every other part of the year: we want to make lists. So we come up with lots of list ideas. One idea this year, like almost every year, is a list of the best action films. But this year, 2010, is special. This article is special. Why? Because this Year in Review article is going to kick off a brand new column that you’ll be able to rock and roll with every Wednesday in 2011: Bullet Points. Like The Coroner’s Report, Bullet Points will focus on a particular genre. I’m not talking down to you when I say that it’s action films,  though you probably guessed that pretty quickly. To kick off this column right and make 2010 just explode all over itself, we’re counting down our ten favorite action films.

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It’s that time of the year again: that brief span of time in between Christmas and New Year’s when journalists, critics, and cultural commentators scramble to define an arbitrary block of time even before that block is over with. To speculate on what 2010 will be remembered for is purely that: speculation. But the lists, summaries, and editorials reflecting on the events, accomplishments, failures, and occurrences of 2010 no doubt shape future debate over what January 1-December 31, 2010 will be remembered for personally, nostalgically, and historically. How we refer to the present frames how it is represented in the future, even when contradictions arise over what events should be valued from a given year. In an effort to begin that framing process, what I offer here is not a critical list of great films, but one that points out dominant cultural conversations, shared trends, and intersecting topics (both implicit and explicit) that have occurred either between the films themselves or between films and other notable aspects of American social life in 2010. As this column attempts to establish week in and week out, movies never exist in a vacuum, but instead operate in active conversation with one another. Thus, a movie’s cultural context should never be ignored. So, without further adieu, here is my overview of the Top 10 topics, trends, and events of the year that have nothing to do with the 3D debate.

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One of my favorite non-starters for articles is the very bland “as you may know.” There’s no doubt in my mind that you’ve seen me use it in the past (I’m doing it again right now). So when I thought about how to begin this year’s top ten article, I wanted to begin by saying “as you may know, one of my great honors around here is to deliver my list of the ten best films of the year.” But you may not know how much of an honor that really is. In fact, it’s difficult for me to put into words how honored I feel to have anyone read this at all, let alone the scores of readers we see on a daily basis here at Film School Rejects. It’s safe to say that I speak for everyone here when I say that I am deeply honored by the opportunity just to write about film. You, the reader, offer that to us every day with your patronage. So my hope is that I can do you proud, dear reader, as I present my list of the ten best films of 2010. This year saw a great deal of personal turmoil for me, meaning some movie-watching blind spots. But some late-year scrambling has pushed my total films seen number well north of 200. And of those 200 or so eligible films, whittling it down to ten wasn’t quite as difficult as it’s been in recent years. Does that mean that […]

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If you are anything like us, 2010 has felt like much of a let down at the movies, especially lately. What with all of the talk about the year’s final tentpole being a bust and the Golden Globes nominating a movie with Christina Aguilera not once, but twice, it’s easy to see how post-cinemadum depression may be setting in. Then we watched this incredibly well edited video from an artist named Gen-I. It’s called Filmography 2010, and it makes 2010 feel like it might actually have been a good year at the movies.

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This week, on a very special episode of Reject Radio, movie slave monkey for UGO.com Matt Patches shows up to give us hell. After some witty banter, he and Cole discuss the finer points of racial tension, bring Jan de Bont to a gun fight, and take a look back on our entirely appropriate relationship with Robert Rodriguez. Plus, we find time to review Machete, The American, and Going the Distance.

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published: 12.23.2014
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published: 12.22.2014
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published: 12.19.2014
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