Posts Tagged ‘Aaron Johnson’


kick_ass_2_balls_to_the_wall-wideIf Quentin Tarantino made a kid’s coming-of-age movie it might look something like “Kick-Ass”. It has most of his trademarks—clever dialogue, good soundtrack and some high octane violence—but there’s a twist. The bloodiest, most cut throat purveyor of ultra violence in the film is an eleven year old girl.

Based on a wild indie comic of the same name by Mark Millar “Kick-Ass” tells a couple of intertwining stories. First up is Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a fanboy who creates a superhero alter ego called Kick-Ass as a way to boost his self esteem. In life he says his only superpower is being invisible to girls, but when he dons the suit he becomes… only marginally more super. His exploits, however, grab the attention of Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloë Moretz), a slightly psychotic father and daughter team of masked (and in Hit Girl’s case, wigged) avengers who admire Ass’s style and moxy. For the caped crusaders in “Kiss-Ass”  all roads lead to drug lord Frank D’Amico (a suitably evil Mark Strong) a ruthless tough guy who is unafraid to go all medieval—his men even use a giant microwave as a torture device—on his enemies.

The action scenes are plentiful and frenetic and once you get past the question, “Why would Chloë Moretz’s parents allow her to do this?” they’re really fun. It’s a little unsettling to see a young girl wielding a switchblade, gunning down dozens of bad guys and going hand-to-hand with a full grown man, but for superhero starved audiences—“Iron Man” won’t be out until next month!—Hit Girl could become a guilty pleasure. It’s not right, and the character will likely be controversial, but it is cool. Not since Natalie Portman in “Léon” has the screen seen such a sweet faced assassin.

But Chloë Moretz’s performance isn’t all high flying action. She makes the best of the darkly comic script, playing both sides of the Mindy / Hit Girl character. Out of costume she has a sweet playful side that pretty much evaporates when she puts on the wig and the weapons.

She plays well off Cage, who once again scores with a very loopy performance, but it is her ability to bring some exuberant fun to her scenes that is “Kick-Ass’s” strongest suit.

“Kick-Ass” is an unusual coming of age story in all respects except one, and that is the film’s weakness. The love story between Dave and Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca) is typical teen fare and is soon forgotten when the action kicks in.

Apart from the mushy teen stuff, however, “Kick-Ass” is one movie that lives up to its title.


nowhere_boy01There is no shortage of John Lennon on celluloid. There are five official Beatles movies, documentaries like “The U.S. vs. John Lennon,” a 2006 movie that focuses on Lennon’s transformation from musician into antiwar activist, and even experimental short films like the John and Yoko shorts like “Two Virgins” and “Apotheosis.” He’s been portrayed by everyone from Paul Rudd (in “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story”) to Monty Python’s Eric Idle but rarely has any actor captured both Lennon’s rebelliousness and vulnerability as Aaron Johnson does in “Nowhere Boy.”

The coming-of-age-story of one of the most famous people of the twentieth century, “Nowhere Boy” examines Lennon’s relationship with his estranged mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff) and his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), the woman who raised him. For the first time on film we see the effect the combustible combination of women had on his life. His mother’s ready! steady! go! lifestyle helping to form his rock ‘n’ roll side, while Aunt Mimi’s more slow and steady influence brought out John’s sensitive, artistic side.

“Nowhere Boy” is a fascinating character study that reveals the formative years of a complicated man. Aaron Johnson, who was eighteen at the time, succeeds because he doesn’t try to imitate Lennon, instead he plays a young, confused man who is on the cusp of growing up. Sure, the distinctive Liverpool accent is there as are the right period details, but it’s what is beyond those crutches that make this performance, as they said in “Yellow Submarine,” “a tickle of joy on the belly the universe.”

First time director Sam Taylor-Wood gets the muddled mix of excitement, testosterone and disappointment Lennon felt on an almost daily basis just right, and in the process has made one of the best Beatle bios to date.


taylor-kitsch-savages-imageI knew “Savages” was going to be an over-the-top Oliver Stone movie from the opening minutes. A “wargasm” reference was my first clue and by the time Benicio Del Toro literally twirled his moustache like a pantomime baddie I knew this wasn’t the same restrained director who gave us “W” and “World Trade Center,” this was Stone in unhinged “Natural Born Killers” mode. It’s a wild ride, but I found it more flamboyant than fun.

Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch are Ben and Chon, entrepreneurs, drug dealers and two thirds of a love triangle with California cutie Ophelia (Blake Lively). They sell a potent strain of legal medical grade marijuana but also siphon off some for illicit practice and profit, which earns the attention of a Mexican Baja drug Cartel run by Elena (Salma Hayek). She’ll do anything to create a “joint” venture, including kidnapping their shared paramour Ophelia. Revenge turns bloody when Elena’s enforcer, Lado (Benicio Del Toro), gets involved and complicated when a dirty DEA agent (John Travolta) double-crosses everyone.

“Savages” is definitely a good-looking movie from the stars to the scenery, but I thought the cast was really interesting as well as pretty. Johnson and Kitsch are good and evil, flip sides of the same coin, Lively isn’t as sprightly as her name might suggest, but she does do damaged quite well. I also enjoyed Travolta, Hayek and Del Toro chewing the scenery but I felt it hard to care about any of them. They’re all rather despicable, and I found myself hoping they’d all end up in a Mexican standoff, firing until no one was left standing.

But stand they do, so for a little over two hours we’re taken to their world of double-crosses, beheadings, threesomes and seemingly pointless close-ups of beaches, crabs and Buddha statues. Stone is a sensualist, allowing his camera to caress Lively’s face and fill the screen with beautiful images. Even Del Toro’s torture scenes have a certain glamorous élan to them, but as entertaining to the eye as it all is, it’s a rather empty experience.

The plotting goes crazy near the middle, and any comment on the morality of the drug trade, one way or another, is sidestepped in favor of an ending—and this is no spoiler—that seems to want to play both sides of the intellectual fence.

Perhaps I expected too much. “Savages” is at its black-hearted best a preposterous popcorn movie that strives to be something more, but the film’s message apparently went, like the product that makes all the characters do such horrible things, up in smoke.

Aaron Johnson Plays Legend John Lennon in BioPic Movies PEOPLE Thursday, October 7, 2010 By Richard Crouse

Aaron-Johnson-in-Nowhere--001Aaron Johnson knew when he signed on to play John Lennon in the biopic Nowhere Boy that he would come under scrutiny from not only Lennon fans but from the late musician’s friends.

“I get guys who know the exact type of guitar string, the tie pin he wore and what colour brothel creepers he had,” the young actor says, adding that “all of those things have been positive.” Also positive, although a little more nerve-wracking, were the reactions of Paul McCartney and Yoko Ono.

McCartney, Johnson says, “thought it was great. The only thing he said was that he couldn’t remember John ever punching him in the face. But that is something you would want to forget; your band mate punching you in the face.”

The toughest critic of all, Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono lent a hand to filmmakers early on when she granted the right to use the song Mother over the closing credits. “Yoko has been a huge supporter of this film,” says Johnson. “She says if you want to understand John even more, and see what pain he put away this is the untold story.”

The film, which examines Lennon’s relationship with his estranged mother and his Aunt Mimi, will be released in Canada on October 15, just a few days after what would have been Lennon’s seventieth birthday.

“We did it as accurately as we could,” says Johnson, “but with the characters we didn’t want to make it impersonations. We just wanted to embody the spirit and the soul of these people. We were lucky because this is the only part of his life that wasn’t documented so we had a bit of freedom to make a natural and instinctive film.”

Johnson says he approached the role as a Lennon outsider. Although the Beatles “are kind of embedded in my British history,” he wasn’t a Lennon obsessive when he signed on.

“I’m not from the generation,” says the actor who was 18 when he made the film, “which was kind of a big thing for me, playing Lennon, because I wasn’t a fanatic or anything. I could look outside the box and look in, observe and analyze and not feel so attached. It was a bit easier for me to perform it, I suppose.”

In the beginning he approached the project as simply a coming-of-age story, but came closer to Lennon as the first day of shooting approached.

“I couldn’t play guitar and didn’t know if I could sing or anything,” he says. “I was willing to give it a shot, but the producers were like, ‘No, no we’ll just dub your voice and we’ll cut to someone strumming the guitar.’ I said, ‘We’ve got a couple of months, let me at least try.’ They kind of batted me away and I think that made me more determined to show them that I could do it. I can’t play John Lennon and not be able to play guitar or sing. I had a blast doing it and in the end I got to sing and perform on songs.

“It was a big thing for me to learn more about Lennon as well because his inspirations became my inspirations. Watching Elvis and watching Buddy; looking at how they moved and how they held a guitar and how they sang. That added another whole level of insight for me into the character.”

He now counts himself among Lennon’s fans, singling out In Spite of All the Danger as his favorite Lennon tune. “It’s one of the first ones he ever wrote and recorded and it is the song I perform in the film. It’s quite a personal one to me.”