Monday, 29 March 2010

Kick-Ass Review

I’m the kind of guy who eats desert before dinner. And so, in keeping with this tradition, I’m going to tell you what I think of Kick-Ass before I review it for you. In short, it has a bad ass script, it has graphic violence, dark x2 humour, one of the coolest 12 year old’s ever, plenty of laughs and thrills and geeks who rock. This is, in short, one hell of a movie. I really enjoyed it – A lot. Go and watch it. Now. I command thee in the name of all things 'Kick-Ass'!

For the rest of the review … read on my friends.

Truth be told, I’d never heard of the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita so I’m not sure how much of a faithful reproduction it is. I’ll have to read the comic now and let you know. The screenplay is written by Matthew Vaughn (who also directs) and Jane Goldman (wife of Jonathan Ross). This is the same writing team/director from Stardust which, in my view, wasn’t that great so I was a little apprehensive about Kick-Ass. However, I needn’t have been. Surprisingly, Kick-Ass is only Matthew Vaughn’s 3rd film but he’s clearly at natural at directing. He builds tension, keeps the angles tight and knows instinctively how to show off great action. He’s definitely one to keep a close eye on and he has a new fan in me.

Anyway, the story is very simple and revolves around Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson), a nerdy teenager who wonders why no one has ever decided to become a real-life superhero. Don’t we all want to help when we see someone in trouble but don’t intervene because we’re too scared about our own safety he muses? How many of us have later stood in our bedrooms later and replayed the moment only in our own versions, we kick some butt and manage to snag a girl in the process? I know I have. So the story is grounded (somewhat) on a premise that we’ve all considered. Dave buys himself a costume and tries to fight crime very unsuccessfully. In fact, he nearly gets himself killed in the process (he’s pretty crap). However, once he’s captured on film trying to protect a total stranger from a beating he (or his alter ego, Kick-Ass) becomes an internet sensation.

While trying to help Katie Deauxma (fellow class mate and love interest) played by Lyndsy Fonseca, Dave ends up in an awkward spot trying to fight a bunch of violent criminals and is rescued a young girl named Hit-Girl (wonderfully played by Chloe Grace Moretz) who kills all the attackers in many violent ways and saves Dave sorry ass. There is a separate story here about Hit-Girl and her father, whose alias is Big Daddy (played by Nicholas Cage in his best performance for ages). Add now to the mix one serious crime lord Frank D'Amico played by the ever watchable Mark Strong and his wannabe gangster son, Chris D’Amico played by McLovin’. Erm I mean Christopher Mintz-Plasse who also doubles as the superhero Red Mist.

What we have is a story about a good guy wanting to do good and along the way he inspires people, get’s his ass kicked and also kicks ass. The set pieces are a hoot. The gags come thick and fast and this film hardly puts a foot wrong. It’s not bogged down with a heavy, political story line like Watchmen and you can just recline, switch off and enjoy.

Treehouse Rating: 4/5
'Kicks Ass' by name and kick ass by nature (Lame pun I know but better than saying this film kicks ass!)

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Friday, 12 March 2010

A new era for consumers loom

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? Nope, it's not Superman either. It's cloud based gaming and cloud based movies, music and any other type of entertainment you might want. This is fascinating stuff (even if I do say so myself!) and her is my brief view on some of the dramatic technological changes coming our way in 2010.

Look out for an announcement on June 17th as a new service that allows consumers (gamers) to play any game, at any time and without a console is officially launched. As consumers, we’re getting used to video/music/film on demand but gaming has not, so far, really taken hold in the same way. But I like my shiny black PS3 under my shiny black TV. Munial likes his Xbox360. But imagine a world where such hardware is not required. Imagine a world where all you need is a small adapter that plugs into your HD TV and your broadband connection and you have access to hundreds of games. No need to download them. They are just there. They exist in the mysterious ‘cloud’. All we mere mortals have to do is pay a monthly subscription fee and in of we go and play whenever we want (on our TV, PC or Mac). The service called OnLive and brainchild of Steve Perlman (WebTV, QuickTime) promises that it “will change the way that entertainment applications are created, delivered and consumed.” If it takes off and has mass market appeal, I do believe it could just be the single most important development for gamers worldwide. It would, quite literally, change the entire gaming landscape.

If this happens, what would Nintendo, Sony, Microsoft and for that matter, Apple do in a world where their hardware becomes obsolete? Would they try and compete with their own digital offering? What would stores that rely on the sale of tangible gaming DVD’s and Blurays do? Would they try and compete? I would argue that they could be surplus to requirements. Ancient business models in a world where technology is developing at a frightening pace. Don’t believe that such changes can happen so quickly? You only need to take one look at Kodak to see that you ignore a changing technological future at your own peril. In 1988 Kodak employed 145,300 people and made a profit of $1.17bn on $13.3bn in revenue. By late 2009, the payroll nose-dived to 19,900 with a quarterly loss of $111m. And why? It’s because Kodak failed to see the impact that the digital camera would have on its business. What’s worse is that Kodak invented the digital camera! But Kodak has fought back hard and expects strong demand in Asia to lift its digital revenues to about $7bn a year from about $5.5bn within three years. It’s been a painful transformation though for them but they had to learn the hard way. Another example is EMI. Whether companies can learn to change and adapt given they have strategies laid out for 5-10 years can make all the difference.

There is also an interesting development by the Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE), a coalition with support from every industry involved in digital entertainment. It’s claimed that this new system will provide a revolutionary new way to enjoy movies, TV shows and other entertainment. The consortium, which consists of companies such as Alcatel-Lucent, Best Buy Co Inc, Cisco Systems Inc, Comcast, News Corp's Fox Entertainment Group, Hewlett-Packard Co, Intel, Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, Microsoft Corp, General Electric Co's NBC Universal, Viacom Inc's Paramount Pictures, Philips, Sony Corp, Sony Pictures, Toshiba, VeriSign, and Time Warner Inc's Warner Bros Entertainment are working on a "uniform digital media experience". The group wants "interoperability of devices and websites" and fair usage rights that will allow consumers to copy content for household playback devices as well as burn their purchased content to physical media for playback or storage. Each consumer would also be given a "rights locker", a virtual library where all video purchases would be stored and available for download again if ever lost. DECE will also have a logo that can be places on products and websites that will inform consumers on whether that site or product is compatible with DECE standards.

Both Sony and Microsoft have already started making strides towards a more coherent digital downloads market but as the competition heats up for this 'cloud' and all its content, I think it will be hampered by fragmentation, different technical standards and different DRM solutions. But, competition is good. There is likely to be consolidation in the industry with a company, perhaps like Amazon or Apple providing new leadership in this so digital of ages.

Let'sbe honest, I’m not a fortune teller. But even if OnLive or the DECE project don’t work commercially, important strides are being made to change the way we consume content forever. Whether we like it or not. Personally, I like it. My life is becoming more and more like Star Trek all the time.

Beam me up (to the cloud) Scotty ...

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