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1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
This movie is about everything…, 5 November 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

The Little Mermaid II is honestly turning into one of my favourite movies in a very serious way. There are too many abominable reviews of it out there and I've been meaning to try and redress the balance for a long time, especially since it hit blu-ray where it looks astonishingly better than it ever has. The story seems similar to the first movie on the surface - Ariel's daughter Melody wants to be a mermaid, like Ariel wanted to be human, but Ariel fears the dangers of the sea, like her father feared humans; particularly Morgana, sister of Ursula, the octopus witch of the original. But the way this is framed is important. Perhaps the reason Melody is drawn to the sea is that her parents, after the first hint of a threat from Morgana, built a giant wall separating land from sea - the very union that was the resolution of the first movie. We're drawn to the mysterious, that which we're told is forbidden - some of us, least - and Melody and Ariel are absolutely this kind of person, but they don't realise how alike they are. This is a movie about the need to label and divide passing from generation to generation and being considered okay as long as it's called something else, and - ironically - dividing us even more.

It's Melody's 12th birthday and just like Ariel at 16 she's not really au fait with such occasions, preferring to frolic beyond the forbidden wall with Sebastian the crab (okay, they don't explain why she's okay with the fact he can speak yet doesn't question the rest of her parents' bullsh*t lol… but hey I guess it's what you get used to that you believe…), exploring the ocean. After her party goes awry (a bit of slapstick with the old French chef from the first movie), there's a scene that resonated particularly strong for me on this viewing after some personal stuff this past weekend. Ariel tries to comfort Melody, making what to the audience is just a bad joke but when you actually think about it is actually incredibly cruel - "I was a regular fish out of water," she says, and follows up by saying, "you can tell me anything" which we know simply isn't true, and she should too, having hidden that statue etc from her father 12 years previously.

So it's understandable and actually a little exciting when Melody not only runs away, like Ariel did in the first movie, makes a deal with Ursula's sister and becomes a mermaid, but also then steals her grandfather's trident for the new witch. The fact is this family hasn't learned their own lesson yet, and it's exhilarating to see this little girl sticking it to them. Repetition is a form of insanity - this movie isn't recycling a story for the sake of making a little more money, it's actually using that cliché to say something about the fact we do this ourselves every day.

There is a simply incredible scene at the end of this movie. Ursula's sister is defeated in a similar fashion (a little rushed and easy if you ask me, but it's not exactly crucial to the reason I love the movie). King Triton tells his granddaughter Melody, "I don't blame you for wanting to join us merfolk…" (in the same condescending tone Ariel said "You can tell me anything…" if you ask me) and he gives her a choice - same as it seemed the rules were in the first movie - she can be a mermaid or a human, he'll wave his trident and make it so.

"I have a better idea," Melody says, and in the next shot, she holding the trident, breaks down the effing wall.

I've been going through a whole kind of self-analysis thing, well, most of my life, but particularly recently about gender binary, identity, the way these things pass down through generations, the way people do things because they feel it's what they're supposed to do, because who of us really knows better etc. But I'm focussing too much on my own obsessions. On the most basic level this movie is about absolutism in all its forms - any system that says there are only two choices and that one is right and one is wrong. The wall erected between land and sea is the wall between any two extremes you feel are pulling you to choose between, when you actually feel like you lie somewhere between and they both have their good and bad points. There are assholes and angels in both mer and human kingdoms and the wider you cast your net the more angelfish you're gonna catch (sorry that was awful lol). I really think this aspect of this movie has been severely overlooked - it might be the best message I've seen in any Disney movie. But still, really, as per my initial response, it had me at Melody and the incredible song "For a Moment"… for those two elements alone, it is worth it. If you haven't seen it yet, see it - if you have seen it, please… watch it again…

Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
104 out of 172 people found the following review useful:
It's not offensive, it's just embarrassing…, 15 August 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

There's a scene in Kick-Ass 2 where one of Dave's only friends who hasn't quite got into the whole "real life superheroes" act yet finally joins them in an outfit that is basically an inversion of Dave's yellow-and-green jumpsuit and tries to choose his name. All he can come up with is variations like "Ass Kick!" and "The Asskicker" to which Dave and his other friend understandably roll their eyes. He later changes sides completely.

Remember that awful movie that the Daily Mail reviewed and accidentally called Kick-Ass? That's what Kick-Ass 2 is really a sequel to. It's so much a pale interpretation of what some terrible people thought the first movie was (and I'm afraid one of those people may be the series' creator, Mark Millar, who quite famously reads the Daily Mail) that it may as well be titled one of those awful unimaginative names Dave's friends comes up with.

I was actually fine with the awful clangers early on in this movie… the Austin Powers-esque, "she sure had some big guns" followed by a shot of someone carrying some actual big guns towards the camera, the blatant descriptive gags like "his baton is so much bigger than Kick-Ass's… baton means cock, by the way…"… the desperate attempts to be current with Mother F**ker spouting his plans to basically tear the world down and then saying, "I gotta tweet about this!"

I could deal with all this because I didn't expect much from this movie except for Hit Girl to be awesome. I really thought they couldn't mess that up because she's such an indestructible character. There's an early line where she tells her foster father, "I've done more in 15 years of my life than most adults have done in all of theirs," and it should ring hard for anyone over 30. Even part of the sequence I'm about to talk about gives a fine glimpse of what Chloe Moretz's Carrie might be like – in short, it might work, she shows the kind of vulnerability I didn't ever expect to see in such a face – a face that, if I described honestly, I'd probably be taken in by Yewtree…

But it's in that middle sequence, the bulk of Moretz's strangely short screen time (she was the highlight of the first movie and even the negative reviews of this one single her out – I'm afraid I can't even be that generous), where this movie really lost me entirely. It begins as a strange Mean Girls knock-off with Mindy (Hit Girl) quite inexplicably going along with a plan to make her "like other girls", passing through a strange slumber party scene where she basically gets horny for the first time watching a "Union J" video (I was surprised to find this cheesy looking band, looking as fake as everything else in this movie, is actually real – and Chloe Moretz is a fan, forcing me to assume it's her doing…), and proceeding to a clichéd looking jock taking her on her first date (her foster father, so protective, seems to be fine with this) that for a horrible second I thought was going to lead into some kind of rape (I forget if the other "rape" scene happens before or after this – I'm not even gonna talk about that 'cos it's been mentioned plenty elsewhere). Instead she is met by her fellow school pals and then deserted. HURTFUL! This whole middle act story ends with Mindy strolling into school dressed like all the other shallow girls and prodding them with an invention of Big Daddy from the first movie – a stick that makes them throw up and diarrhoea at the same time, which looks more like vanilla and chocolate pudding coming out of both ends. It was at this point that if you'd photographed me you'd have seen a face that looked a little like when Eric Cartman's funny bone broke in "South Park".

It's not that I'm offended by this stuff. If you know me, you know this. And I knew that under any other circumstance I would've found it tear-inducingly funny. There was just something about the way it was done, and the context, that kind of paralysed me. It was just so … pointless.

Jim Carrey disowned this movie because of the violence after Sandy Hook etc. He'd've done better just saying he was embarrassed at how it turned out. I heard there was a post-credits scene at the end of Kick-Ass 2, but I left as soon as the screen went black and I wished for once I was the kind of person who leaves earlier sometimes. Frankly unless that post-credits scene was Ashton Kutcher saying "you've been punk'd!", I think at least I saved some of my time the day I saw this. It's not offensive, it's just embarrassing. The only good thing is that it'll make you realise just how classy the first movie was. Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, you are sorely missed…

37 out of 53 people found the following review useful:
Cuts through the clichés with fantastic performance and style…, 13 September 2012

"Our life is a series of moments… let them go…"

I don't need to go into my decreasing expectation of Dakota Fanning movies as I tend to do it with each of her movies since around 2007… needless to say, I likely wouldn't have been rushing to see this one – which from the outside appears as yet another not-even-Oscar-baiting cancer pity porn story (if you'll excuse the extreme shorthand) with the added "oh no…" factor of Fanning doing her best English accent to boot*. But I got free tickets, and who was I to pass up my first chance to see one of my (despite everything, still) favourite actresses on the big screen for the first time since 2005?

The by-the-numbers story here has Fanning as Tessa, who is dying of leukaemia, has passed the point of expecting treatment to help, and wants to get a few things done before she goes. This in itself, of course, does not an enriching 90 minutes make (not for me, anyway). But while there's certainly a few bad clichés of this kind of story in here (and one particularly awful moment – I shall just say "sweetcorn"…), the reason Now Is Good continued to pull me in is because of this light of a character at its core.

As I said I was worried I'd be adding this movie to a long list of recent Dakota Fanning movies (okay, mainly the Twilight movies) that lead me to ask, frustrated, "what are you doing, Dakota?" – but you can see why she was drawn to this one, despite any of its leanings toward cliché. Tessa responds to the generic way the world usually deals with terminal illness in the same way I always imagine I would (yes – I'll it admit it – I imagine it enough to be able to say such a thing, lol, now who's pitying?), and I connected to her fast – the way her face lights up the moment she spots a hint of mischief in a person, such as when her brother asks at the breakfast table (much to their father's dismay), "when Tessa dies can we go on holiday?" or how she talks back to her doctor ("Good girl." "Would you like to slap my rump? …then stop talking to me like a horse…") She really doesn't want any pity, for herself or anyone (as she says to her love towards the end, "Don't you dare expect me to feel sorry for you because you get left behind, don't you f-ing dare!") but she certainly doesn't deny the creeping darkness of her imminent death either.

There's a ropey segment in which Tessa and her friend go on an attempted crime spree in a shopping centre that smacks awfully of a teen movie cliché I thought long-since past, and the aforementioned unbelievable attempt to cut through one of the movie's most horrific glimpses of disease with the comedy of "sweetcorn" – but even these lows are ultimately countered by terrific performance, not just from Fanning but from the support cast including Paddy Considine and Olivia Williams (both of whom, post-sweetcorn scene, share the best non-Fanning scene in the movie, as she asks him, "Can I stay?"). There are lesser clichés that also ring less hokey for the same reasons, such as Fanning enjoying an air tunnel type ride (her face in this scene is too beautiful to even consider being cynical), a stolen kiss under fireworks, and the horses that ride past at the end – but by that point I was so in love with Tessa they could have played in "This Woman's Work" or "Fields of Gold" over such imagery and still not offended me… it really is her most unforgettable role since Man on Fire for me.

* the accent work is fantastic, if you must know – I really didn't want to mention it in my review though, because everybody will… it's the flawless, clipped, but not necessarily authentic to the character, kind most American actresses manage …but like those minor clichés, by around midway it's the last thing on your mind.

** PS. There's some interesting use of Nine Lives footage (at least I think it's that movie), of a younger Fanning climbing a tree, that I just found interesting and felt worth mentioning – it was slightly jarring to me but I imagine even fewer people saw that movie than will see this one lol. At least it connects to something in this movie, anyway, another beautiful scene of tree climbing. ** EDIT I asked the director about this and he said they shot all of the stuff at the end themselves so I guess I was wrong, it just looked very familiar to me :)