Pixar’s ‘Brave’: An Ode to Kick-Ass Chicks Everywhere

Pixar’s latest movie Brave opens today to the delight of kids and young-at-heart grown-ups everywhere. But Brave isn’t your typical animated flick; it features the bow-and-arrow wielding heroine Merida as its protagonist, meaning it’s not another burnt-out tale of a princess in need of some guy in tights and a cape (or as a prize to be won after a sword fight). In fact, it finally shows the true weaker sex in its pure unadulterated form: as bumbling, scrawny little pansies. Well, the princes at least. Here’s a list of our favorite heroines: further evidence that girls do it better.

Hit Girl 
Perhaps the most bad-ass eleven year-old on the planet, Kick-Ass’s Hit Girl showed us that size really doesn’t matter when decapitating 200-pound mobsters with expertly thrown butterfly knives and roundhouse kicks to the shin, without of strand of purple hair out of place. But I mean, if I were eleven, I’d love to be a bodysuit-clad, profanity-slinging, sai-wielding vigilante. Oh well, I guess writing about kicking ass will have to suffice for now.

 

Lara Croft
With the most enviable body on the planet (sorry Gisele), Lara Croft’s gorgeous gams aren’t just perfectly photogenic—they can also scale perilous cliffs with ease, reduce machine-gun toting men into ragdolls in a thigh headlock and propel her into gravity-defying feats up the walls of a building. In the words of the Croft herself, “Yes, a lady should be modest.”

 

Xena
Before there was Frodo, there was Xena: a leather-clad, chakram-throwing, 100% woman warrior with a Pantene Pro-V ready head of hair. Conquering the world, one blood-letting battle at a time? Check. Getting laid by Julius Caesar? Check. Killing 99% of the Greek gods via a supernatural power? Check and double check!

Sailor Moon
I don’t know about you, but as a wee little tyke I was always jealous of Sailor Moon’s awesome power to magically change into an outfit via a jeweled scepter and a bindi-esque forehead diamond. I also could never figure out why her enemies would be willing to wait the whole ten minutes while she changed into said magical outfit. Also, she has two talking cats! And a guy in a tux who always has a rose on hand! Some girls have all the luck.

 

The Power-Puff Girls
Sugar, spice, and Chemical X! Clearly, I need some of that stuff, because coffee just doesn’t do it for me anymore. The Power Puff Girls were the original symbols of girl-power, possessing super-cute, super huge eyes and the ability to kill all sorts of diabolical evil-doers via laser-shooting corneas and a mere tap of their fingerless…paws? I just have one question for the terrific trio—how do they keep their stockings so starchy white?

Roger Ebert on ‘Kick-Ass’: Critic or Scold?

“Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool?” asks Roger Ebert in the lede of his scathing review for Mathew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass, opening today. Obviously it’s a rhetorical question—the one being inevitable, the other not really befitting an established 67-year-old critic—but it casts a deliberately invidious judgment that’s not just directed at the film. Ebert here and elsewhere in the piece boldly insinuates that if you can appreciate Kick-Ass‘ rock-’em-sock-’em violence, you’re likely shallow, blinkered, and bereft of genuine human emotions.

He continues: “Will I seem hopelessly square if I find Kick-Ass morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point?” I haven’t seen the film, but have seen countless clips and trailers, and think I can safely answer the question: yes and yes. The bug up Ebert’s butt, of course, is the violence dispensed here by adolescent crime-fighting wunderkind, Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz), who terminates no end of villains in an incredibly violent manner. Moretz, who steals the movie I’m told, was eleven at the time of the shoot, and it’s her foul-mouthed, gun-toting antics that have become the film’s biggest talking point.

“This isn’t comic violence,” Ebert writes. “These men, and many others in the film, are really stone-cold dead. And the 11-year-old apparently experiences no emotions about this. Many children that age would be, I dunno, affected somehow, don’t you think, after killing eight or 12 men who were trying to kill her?” Is he joking? It’s one thing to disparage the trendy comic-book-ification of recent movies, and another altogether to say you don’t like a comedy because it isn’t a drama. And since when have superheroes of any age paused to consider the deeper meaning of a few dead henchmen?

Yes, it’s transgressive to have a young female character portrayed as a non-stop killing machine, but no more so than it is absurd, and therein lies the zest of the comedy. Ebert, immune to it, rather thinks the whole affair promotes youth violence. “When kids in the age range of this movie’s home video audience are shooting one another every day in America, that kind of stops being funny.” This is just embarrassing, the kind of narrow, fustian moralizing that leads people to things like editing the “objectionable” violence from Roadrunner cartoons. Kids have played at “war” and other such such violent diversions since time immemorial, and no motion picture that I know of ever handed out guns to children. Ebert’s qualms notwithstanding, I’m betting it’s possible to like Kick-Ass and not be an apathetic asshole.

The Most Hateful ‘Kick-Ass’ Reviews on the Internet

When we told Kick-Ass star Aaron Johnson about a vitriolic review of his new movie in the UK’s Daily Mail (of the film’s 11-year-old superkid Hit Girl, they say “Paedophiles are going to adore her.”), he went off on a tirade that left him blasting the lyrics of the Rihanna hit “Rude Boy.” But the Daily Mail wasn’t the only publication to lambaste the superhero flick. Even though it’s tracking towards a solid opening weekend, critics either love or hate this film (say it ain’t so, Roger!). Here are some critics that really, really hate it.

● “Shall I have feelings, or should I pretend to be cool? Will I seem hopelessly square if I find “Kick-Ass” morally reprehensible and will I appear to have missed the point? Let’s say you’re a big fan of the original comic book, and you think the movie does it justice. You know what? You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in.”—Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun Times

● “I started hating this movie around the midpoint. And while Hit Girl’s single usage of a c-word more commonly heard in Britain than in America has generated some controversy, the more pressing issue is how stupidly relentless the gore is, from beginning to end.”—Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

● “It’s flawed to start with, a hypocritical mess whose attempts to swagger turn into clumsy stumbling and whose knowing wink blinds it to its own problems.” —James Rocchi, MSN

● “That a protagonist lacks superpowers is no reason for him to lack motivation, conviction, or purpose. That’s right, I just mentioned moral vision in a review of a comic-book movie. Go ahead and call me a sententious schoolmarm (you cunts)”.—Dana Stevens, Slate

● “In its own hyperviolent, controversy-baiting way, Kick-Ass is as empty and superficial as the biggest studio production, which is no surprise coming from Millar, a writer known as much for his self-promotion as for his actual work—which tends to be condescending, flashy and exhausting.”—Josh Bell, Las Vegas Weekly

● “Johnson affects a full-on puberty squeak and flails about with his pair of electric-taped-up batons with all the grace of a wet fart.”—Simon Abrams, New York Press

● “Are we really supposed to get excited about a little girl saying words like “cock” and “douche”? Anything passed through this many filters would come out weak. Never as shocking as it thinks it is, as funny as it should be, or as engaged in cultural critique as it could be, Kick-Ass is half-assed.”—Karina Longworth, The Village Voice

So yeah, people are offended, but we still think it’ll be a phenomenon.

‘Kick-Ass’ Star Aaron Johnson on Playing a Superhero, Nic Cage, and Rihanna’s Filthy Lyrics

Most people seeing Kick-Ass this weekend will have no idea who the actor in the green suit is. There’s McLovin, and there’s Nic Cage, but who’s the kid with the bushy hair and creaky voice playing the superhero? Well, if you must know (and yes, you must), his name is Aaron Johnson, and he’s been acting in his native England for years. Oh yeah, that’s another thing, he’s British, something that will surprise you once you see how seamlessly he blends into the role of slightly dorky American high schooler-turned crime fighter Dave Lizewski. To say that Johnson is nothing like his onscreen character (the kind of guy who pleasures himself to his math teacher) is a gross understatement. He wears an earring, possesses a debonair style, and swears more than anyone I’ve ever met. He’s very charming, if not a tad uncomfortable with his upcoming fame. He’s also, at 19 years old, engaged to the 42-year-old British artist Sam Taylor-Wood, who directed him in the upcoming young John Lennon biopic Nowhere Boy. Wood is expecting their first child together, a prospect that would terrify most 19-year-olds, but that has Johnson excited. Here he is on playing “a stupid kid in a costume,” the fucking brilliance of Nicolas Cage, and Rihanna’s filthy lyrics.

What’s the promotion crush leading the film’s opening been like? Last night I was on Jimmy Kimmel and then jumped on an airplane and arrived here this morning, and I haven’t fucking slept. I’m not even fucking staying in New York tonight. I’m going to Miami.

Do you like traveling? Yeah, its fucking mad.

How was Jimmy Kimmel? He set me up with so many fucking stories, fucking this story and that story.

I noticed you swear a lot. Was it hard not to swear on Kimmel? Yeah, he tries to set you up with so many fucking stories. Back at home when you do talk shows like that, when they say they’re live they really ain’t. You just film for about 30 fucking minutes and they cut it down to about five. But this they just do it and you’re like shit, I was supposed to do all this stuff. But yeah, you’re supposed to be funny but I don’t try to be, its not my thing, especially when it’s on fucking camera like that. It’s like, you just don’t do that, man.

Did the movie end up the way you imagined it when you read the script? Yeah, definitely, probably more than I expected. I don’t think you can visualize all of that in one go. It met expectations and more so. I knew it was going to be violent just because I knew Matthew Vaughn knows how to deal with British gangster movies. If he had that edge on a comic book movie, I thought it was going to be fucking interesting or sick. It’s going to be different. Straight away, Hit Girl definitely reminded me of Kill Bill and I’m a huge Tarantino fan. The thing for me, was more sort of character-based stuff. I saw a character looking for a journey, a sign in his life. He kind of gets caught up in the imagination of it all.

Did you and Matthew Vaughn share a special connection as Brits? Yeah, we did. I was in the audition and it was quite hard to even convince him that I was English because I went in as an American. I said I was from London and he said “Fuck off.”

Do you see this as your superhero role? What drew me to him was that he wasn’t the typical superhero. I liked the fact that he was original and kind of quirky, a stupid kid in a costume. What I see nowadays is kids are just so fucking insecure or conscious about what they look like. I just wanted this role to be a role where I didn’t give a fuck about that sort of thing. Because I don’t care, you have to give all that shit up and be in the moment and kind of forget about those things and be creative. I like the idea of a kid that’s this weedy kid who can’t get girls and loves tits, and doesn’t know how to fucking hold tits and shit. It’s the weirdest thing to me.

How many times have you seen the film? I’ve seen it about 8 or 9 times.

Are you sick of it? No, no. I just look at Nicholas Cage, man. It fucking blows my mind. He’s actually one of those people that’s got it down to a tee. People first were like, What the fuck? And then he grows on you. He’s a character, and you have to keep going back to him and just going “Wow, he’s actually fucking brilliant.” And then you just focus on him.

The movie is getting criticized for its portrayal of Hit Girl. The Daily Mail wrote “Pedophiles are going to adore her.” That’s fucked in the head. What about these fucking little kids that are playing with Barbie dolls and are like, That’s what I have to look like, I want to look plastic with some Barbie doll tits, and I want my mom takes me to beauty pageants.” Like, fuck. That’s just wrong. Also, don’t get me wrong, I like the Rihanna song “Rude Boy,” I just think it’s fucking disgusting. She’s actually got some fucking fans that are old enough to understand her music, and then she’s got some of them that are fucking eight years old. Their moms have their eight-year-old girls doing fucking cheerleading dances to “Come on rude boy/Can you get it up/Are you big enough/Can you take it/Take it?” Yeah, that’s what you should teach your kids. Yeah, that’s what love is, to get a hard cock up your ass.

But let’s get this straight: you do like Rihanna. Rihanna is fucking sick. I don’t want to diss her work, but what I’m saying is that fucking eight year old girls—what we’ve done is put a certificate on our film that says it’s an R-rated movie, but Rihanna is playing on the fucking radio and little girls are singing along to songs about having a cock up her ass.

After Kick-Ass, you have Nowhere Boy coming out. Which film is closer to your heart? I guess Nowhere Boy is closer in a sense, because the director is my fiancée, and I had a fantastic time with that. I like Kick-Ass too, but in a sense Nowhere Boy was a really personal, spiritual thing, and then this year we are going to bring it out in October, on John’s 70th birthday. It’s a film I’m really proud of, from many angles.

How did you prepare to play a young John Lennon? I checked every fucking thing out. He was inspired by Elvis and Buddy Holly, but the big fucking one was the Rolling Stone interview which was about an hour and forty minutes long with him and Yoko, and he is such a free-spirited person. He just says everything in I, like The Beatles were a front, and he was bitter inside, and his mother died, and he was angry and mad and we can see it in the fucking videos. He’s angry, he’s fucking aggressive. But there is also a vulnerability there.

I read somewhere that you had a fascination with Brad Pitt. Really? I mean, he’s a great actor. He’s a really cool guy, I met him and he fucking shakes your hand and gives you the fucking time. He’s incredible. Who the fuck said that?

I believe it was Interview magazine. So you’re going to be a dad soon? Yeah, that’s true.

Are you scared at all. No man, I’m excited. I’m already like a step dad to two anyway, one’s three and one’s twelve.

Are you worried that fatherhood might put a hold on your career? No, never, fuck no. I’ll be there for my kid all the time. I can’t wait to be. I think I always had it in me to be a fucking father, so it’s time, and I know I’ll be a good father.

Movie Reviews: Kick-Ass, I Love You Phillip Morris, The Greatest

I Love You Phillip Morris – “This really happened. It really did.” So read the subtitles at the beginning of I Love You Phillip Morris, informing the audience that the mind-boggling exploits of protagonist Steven Russell (Jim Carrey)—con man, embezzler, impersonator and frequent jail-breaker—are all true. But 15 minutes into the film, when the camera cuts away from Russell, a seemingly cheerful family man, dedicated Christian and potluck-frequenting police officer, to Russell euphorically sodomizing another man while chortling in voice-over, “I’m gay, gay, gay!” those subtitles take on new meaning. Forget the neutered “Will & Grace”. Forget the tortured Brokeback Mountain. This is a movie starring Hollywood heavies Carrey and Ewan McGregor (playing the love of Russell’s life, Phillip Morris) as unapologetic, unconflicted homosexuals who like to screw. This really happened. It really did. If neither Carrey nor the film is plausible in the more earnest moments, well, it’s the movie’s sexual politics, not its weaknesses, that will have everyone talking.—Willa Paskin

Kick-Ass – “How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero?” wonders Kick-Ass, and then spends two twisted and exhilarating hours answering: “Because it’s a bloody, dangerous, delusional occupation.” To break the monotony of high school mediocrity, Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) turns to vigilantism, becoming the masked avenger of the film’s title. The problem is, Dave is Peter Parker without the IQ or the spider bite—the only ass getting kicked is his own. When Dave gets caught up in a war between some seriously skilled justice-seekers and a mob boss, we’re introduced to superheroes played by Nicolas Cage, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and, best of all, 12-year-old Chloe Moretz. As the pint-sized assassin Hit Girl, the foul-mouthed Moretz steals the movie from its lead and earns herself a spot in the superhero pantheon. The violence is visceral and real; the humor is R-rated. Needless to say, the movie kicks ass.—Ben Barna

The City of Your Final Destination – No one comes from a nuclear family anymore. The Gunds are no exception. Director James Ivory (Howard’s End, Le Divorce) follows aspiring biographer Omar (Omar Metwally) as he travels to a Uruguayan estancia to save his fledging academic career. Omar hopes to persuade the family of Jules Gund, a deceased and celebrated author, to give him permission to research the literary hero. The film follows the academic as he eases into the Gund family’s extraordinary, damaged lives. A talented cast—Laura Linney as the late writer’s wife, Charlotte Gainsbourg as his mistress and Anthony Hopkins as his brother—plays out a complex soap opera against an enchanting South American backdrop, rivaling the best Merchant- Ivory productions.—Eiseley Tauginas

The Thorn In The Heart – Michel Gondry’s latest, a documentary about his aunt Suzanne, a schoolteacher, never justifies its existence. Suzanne is a charming, lively, no-nonsense woman, but as Gondry takes her through places from her past, he never makes clear why hers is a story worth telling. The film’s meandering narrative torpedoes any chance of Suzanne’s mildly dramatic story appealing to a broader audience. Beautifully shot and gently dreamlike as it is, the movie is uncomfortably similar to a stranger’s home videos.—Michael Jordan

The Greatest – Like Ordinary People and Moonlight Mile before it, The Greatest is a small drama about a family coping with death. One irony of this particular genre is that it insists on the vast pain and messiness of grief, only to tidily resolve said grief before the closing credits. Pierce Brosnan and Susan Sarandon (who also starred in Moonlight) play the parents of an 18-year- old student (Aaron Johnson of Kick-Ass) who dies in a car accident shortly after losing his virginity to Rose (An Education’s lovely Carey Mulligan). A pregnant Rose arrives at the grief- stricken parents’ door, and, ultimately, healing ensues. The Greatest is memorable mostly due to Mulligan, Johnson and Johnny Simmons, who plays Johnson’s former burnout of a younger brother. Mulligan and Johnson, already two of Hollywood’s brightest rising stars, seem deservingly destined for long, impressive careers, but Simmons outshines them both. —W.P.

Kick-Ass Red-Band Trailers: Too Much for the Kiddies?

It’s not hard to ascertain why the most noxious crank-cases always earn the most visible press, but that doesn’t make it any less odious a phenomenon. The latest example is The New York Timescoverage (courtesy of Brooks Barnes) of one puritanical scold who happens to be extremely averse to red band, a.k.a. R-rated, trailers. Nell Minow, a lawyer who reviews films for radio stations and Beliefnet.com under the name “Movie Mom,” has been complaining about their often unchecked circulation on the internet for years, but apparently the trailers for Lionsgate’s forthcoming superhero spoof, Kick-Ass, have really got her dander up. “Studios hide behind the notion of an age requirement for these trailers, but it’s pure fiction. It’s easy for kids to access, and that’s exactly how the industry wants it.”

The trailers for Kick-Ass are, needless to say, very popular, which is why they’re attracting Ms. Minow’s angry attention. In one of them (see below), a pre-pubescent crime-fighter named “Hit Girl” calls a room full of faceless villains “cunts” before messily pounding them into submission. True, this is some rather piquant comedy (if it were a boy uttering that line I doubt there’d be such a kerfluffle), but Lionsgate has in no way broken any rules, complying with the MPAA restriction that such trailers appear only on sites that require age verification. The fact that the spots often leak to other unregulated sites is not the studio’s fault per se, and while the MPAA may try to curb a red-bander’s web trajectory, they cannot, as one representative put it, “scrub the internet.”

So what’s the solution? I’m with Jeffrey Wells in thinking the answer is simply to ignore the likes of Ms. Minow. Much like the recent debacle over Sigourney Weaver’s character smoking in Avatar, this is little more than a tempest in a teacup which Barnes’ Times coverage serves to exaggerate. What’s worse, he hyperbolizes a bit, calling Hit-Girl’s language “so graphic that it would make a biker blanch.” This almost makes it sound as if he’s favorably biased toward Ms. Minow’s opinion, and serves as proof positive that Barnes doesn’t know any bikers.

You Heard It Here First: ‘Kick-Ass’ Will Be A Phenomenon

One of the perks of this job is getting to see movies before they’re released, a privilege we ostensibly get so that we can hype the movie, even though they rarely deserve hyping, and usually comes down to us telling our friends, “you have to go see that movie!” Well, I’m telling you, my friends, that you have to go see Kick-Ass. It will be the most talked-about, beloved movie that comes out next year, in April.

The fact that Kick-Ass‘ release is a whole winter away is as frustrating to me as it should be to you. You have to wait while word slowly builds that this is a film for the ages, and I have no one that can share in my giddiness. Last month /Film posted an article titled Is Kick-Ass the Best Superhero Movie Ever Made? I can now answer that with an emphatic yes. It’s also the best comic book movie ever made, and one of the best revenge fantasies ever put on film.

Kick-Ass is based on a comic from writer Mark Millar, the man behind Wanted. I haven’t read it, but I do know that director Matthew Vaughan (L4yer Cake) made this movie independently to remain faithful to the source material and avoid a studio suffocating it with a PG rating. That’s because the comic is bloody and ultra-violent, and so is the film. But what differentiates Kick-Ass from other cinematic bloodbaths is it’s comedy. Switching from nihilistic, to fratty, to straight-up demented, the comedy works to balance scenes of incredible intensity with a welcomed light-heartedness. It’s Superbad-meets-Kill Bill-meets The Dark Knight.

Kick-Ass asks the question “How ‘come nobody’s ever tried to be superhero?” Then it answers that question in an early scene of bone-crushing brutality that shocks you into the realization that this is unlike anything else you’ve ever seen. Dave Lizewski is an ordinary high school student who decides to try his hand at vigilante justice without the benefit of super powers. He transformers himself into the masked hero Kick-Ass. It’s an origin story better than Spider-Man, populated by heroes and villains far more interesting and likeable than in any of the X-Men films. One of these heroes is Hit Girl, played by the 12-year-old actress Chloe Moretz, who, after this soon-to-be iconic role, has herself an acting career. Last month I spoke to Moretz on the phone and she was as sweet and polite as a twelve year old ought to be. As Hit Girl she curses, gets shot, slits throats, and generally steals the show. It’s the performance of a very young lifetime. And then there’s Nicolas Cage, popping up in yet another film, only this time it’s a good one. His performance here should erase memories of Ghost Rider , the self-professed comic book fanatic’s botched attempt at a superhero flick.

People who are talking about Kick-Ass are talking about it the way they spoke of The Matrix, after they saw it for the first time. It’s action sequences are audacious, balletic, and most importantly, you can actually see what’s going on. They’re talking about it in the way they talked about The Dark Knight—it reinvents a genre, and then beats it to bits. The prospects for this movie are huge. As Lionsgate wisely rolls out more and more advance screenings (and hopefully releases more red-band clips), buzz around this film will continue to grow, which will nurture it towards a massive opening weekend, despite its R-rating. And then, word-of-mouth will make Kick-Ass the movie to see in theaters, before a much bigger, yet far more generic superhero flick brushes it aside. But that’s the thing—every superhero movie (and most movies in general) including Iron Man 2, will seem generic after this.