Reel Critics: No 'Kick' out of this sequel

When I saw the original "Kick-Ass" in 2010, I called it a disturbing new movie category.

It starts as a sarcastic look at the whole superhero genre. But it clearly targeted younger teens with a strange mix of cute, profane and truly violent parts.

Amplify the worst R-rated aspects of that description, add lots of juvenile stupidity and you have the weird sequel that is "Kick-Ass 2."

Geeky teenagers and psycho adults continue to don silly costumes. They join ranks with other wannabe heroes or villains to act out their childish fantasies of domination. The high school antics seem out of place as students spout foul-mouthed zingers while planning very nasty grown-up revenge. Dozens of people are sliced, diced, beaten and shot to death, seemingly just for fun.

Chloe Grace Moretz and Aaron Taylor-Johnson reprise their former roles as Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass. They are now older but no wiser as they play out the ridiculous story line with straight faces. The whole enterprise is a bizarre mix of mayhem, lame jokes and bloody nonsense with no redeeming social value.


'Butler' pays valuable service

Based upon the true story of Eugene Allen, "Lee Daniels' The Butler" is a moving tribute to civil rights history in the U.S. as seen through the eyes of a black man who served in the White House.

Cecil Gaines (played as an adult by Forest Whitaker) learned as a child that the best way to survive was to maintain two personas: Be invisible while standing in attendance in a roomful of white people, and pursue another life as an easy, irreverent but kind family man.

Cecil begins his tenure on 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. under the Eisenhower administration, right when the school desegregation issue begins to heat up.

Cecil's oldest son, Louis (David Oyelowo), grows up to become an activist for social change, and his participation in sit-ins, freedom riding, demonstrations and more is in direct clash with Cecil's views. This in turn causes added conflict for Cecil's wife, Gloria (Oprah Winfrey), who battles alcoholism and loneliness.

Director Daniels ("Precious") leads his outstanding, star-studded cast to memorable performances. Although the "stunt casting" of famous White House residents can be distracting, it's all done with grace, empathy and even levity.

Whitaker is incredible as Cecil and is equally matched by Winfrey, who reminds us what a powerful character actress she can be.

The drama may be heavy-handed at times, but have no doubt that this is one of the year's best films.

Like the excellent "42," about Jackie Robinson, "The Butler" reminds us of the centuries-old history of racism in this country. It recalls the bravery of those who endured and fought against it, and those who continue to stand up for the acceptance and respect due every human being.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator. SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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