Tag Archives: Aaron Taylor-Johnson

Nowhere Boy (2009) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Nowhere Boy

Director: Sam Taylor-Johnson (as Sam Taylor-Wood)
Writer: Matt Greenhalgh (screenplay)
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson (as Aaron Johnson), Kristin Scott Thomas, Anne-Marie Duff 

He’s a real Nowhere Boy, sitting in his nowhere land, making all his nowhere plans for nobody…..or something like that.

Nowhere Boy is a film by Sam Taylor-Johnson about John Lennon’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) first years, focused mainly in his adolescence and his relationship with his Aunt Mimi (Kristin Scott Thomas), who raised him, and his absentee mother Julia (Anne-Marie Duff), who re-entered his life at a crucial moment in his young life.

When this film was released back in 2009, as a massive John Lennon fan it was a no brainer that I had to go and see this film. I knew the story via The Beatles Anthology (1995) and Imagine (1990) and various publications but from a cinematic perspective I had yet to see a film that covered theses years before the fab four went off to Hamburg (Which Backbeat did in 1994) on their way to conquering the world. 

This film of course is where future husband and wife met and became one “Taylor-Johnson” Firstly Aaron Taylor-Johnson as John Lennon is eerily similar to the young Lennon at this stage in his life. The Actor manages to pull of a convincing scouse accent and his mannerisms are pretty much spot on. Although known for being a “Working Class” hero, John Lennon actually lived in a more well to do area of Liverpool but with tragic consequences. He lived most of his early life with his Aunt Mimi as the relationship between his Father and Mother all but deteriorated by the time he was five years old. The complexities and circumstances of those early years and the passing of his Uncle George (David Threlfall) who was Mimi’s husband, convinced the young Lennon that he was perhaps a jinx on the male side of his family. His father Fred (Alfred Lennon) left Britain early in John’s life to find work in New Zealand and rarely had any contact with his Son (until he became famous) Aaron Taylor-Johnson as Lennnon deals with these issues in a way that only a young boy can. Confused, hurt, angry….its all there in the characteristics of the 15 year old John Lennnon.

What a casting choice in the role of Aunt Mimi. Kristin Scott Thomas is perfect as the stern aunt who John lives with. Disciplined and protective of him, Scott Thomas plays Mimi as pretty much the straight as a die and matter fo fact character that was Mimi Smith. The relationship between her and John is complex. In Nowhere Boy I was surprised to see that she bought him a guitar and showed some encouragement in his interest for music. I say that as there is the famous quote from Mimi Smith “The guitar’s all right John, but you’ll never make a living out of it”. I imagine Kristin Scott Thomas plays the role in a typical female fashion for the times. Very strong and to the point. That’s not to say that there is vulnerability in the character. Especially around Julia played by the energetic Anne-Marie Duff. The relationship between both the women in John’s life is sad in a way. They both want what is best for the boy but in different ways. Mimi and Julia are like chalk and cheese and things are very strained between them. The resentment early on in the film from Mimi towards Julia for not being a “proper” mother to John certainly is evident here and in real life effected Lennon’s life throughout his forty years on this planet.

The supporting roles of Paul McCartney played by Thomas Brodie Sangster, Uncle George played by David Threlfall and Bobby played by David Morrissey would be a crime to ignore. They play pivotal roles in young Lennon’s life and the shaping of the man he would become. Interestingly the real Paul McCartney confirmed on the film’s release that the punching scene between Paul and John never happened. That I don’t mind as all film at some point adds scenarios for purely good drama. I liked the scene and felt it bonded the two characters in a shared tragedy.

Overall Nowhere Boy is a very good attempt at covering John Lennon’s younger years before he set of with George and Paul to Hamburg along with Stuart, Pete and eventually recruiting a guy named Richard Starkey. The cinematography is a vital part of the storytelling and I felt the filmmakers captured late 1950’s perfectly. The soundtrack is also important and it was nice to see they managed to include some of the early Lennon / McCartney influences in the final product. To cap it off we get a bittersweet moment for John Lennon taking lead vocals on one of the bands first recordings with “In Spite Of All The Danger” with Lennon reminiscing over the better times with his mother who sadly passed away after an off duty police officer crashed his car into her killing her instantly. Aaron Taylor-Johnson sounds very much like Lennon in this sequence and hats off to Thomas Brodie Sangster learning to play left handed guitar to add to the authenticity. Sam Taylor-Johnson did a fine job on Nowhere Boy and I would highly recommend giving this film a watch.

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Kick-Ass 2 (2013) Movie Review By Stephen McLaughlin

Kick Ass 2

Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writers: Jeff Wadlow (screenplay), Mark Millar (comic book)
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Jim Carrey 

The much anticipated sequel to 2010’s KickAss came three years later after original. Director Matthew Vaughn switched his attention to the Kingsmen franchise and at one point was linked with Episode VII of the Star Wars Saga. Whatever the reasons for his step down from this sequel I’m unsure of. Jeff Wadlow would come in and do an okay job on a sequel that had lost its original Director, replaced two of its actors who were ever prominent in the original film and Jim Carrey’s odd disapproval of promoting gun violence in film (I’m sure he said he enjoyed the first film) topped with being 2 years too late we now had 16 year old Chloë Grace Moretz playing Hit Girl. A role as a 12 year old she excelled in and managed to gather a large following for her role in the original film as the violent and potty mouth babyfaced assassin. Sadly the chemistry between her and her on screen Father “Big Daddy” played by Nicholas Cage is missed here. If I had one gripe with the original it was killing his character off. Yes the final scenes in the original with Big Daddy were powerful and emotional but the relationship in the sequel was badly needed and evidently missed. 

So Kick-Ass 2 follows Kick-Ass’ heroics from the first film that other citizens are inspired to become masked crusaders. But Red Mist leads his own group of evil supervillains to get revenge, kill Kick-Ass and destroy everything he stands for and for the largest portion of the movie that is what happens. Aaron Taylor-Johnson slips back into the role easily as the scrawny misfit that is Dave Lizewski by day. It’s one of the positives about the film. The same can be said for Christopher Mintz-Plasse as Chris D’Amico. He is still the whiny spoilt brat with Daddy issues and a immature rage directed at Kick-Ass for his exploits in the first film. Sadly for me Chloë Grace Moretz comes across bored with the character in this sequel. At this point in her career she was beginning to branch out in other projects and saw a future over the Hit Girl Horizon. 

We are introduced to some new and inventive super heroes and villains really upping the ante in cast and characters. Some are hard hitting in Mother Russia some more deliberately funny and pathetic in the duelling couple “Tommy’s Mother and Father” to Clarke Duke’s Marty / Battle Guy who is desperate for a tragic origin story. But none comes more prominent than Jim Carrey’s Colonel Stars and Stripes which is based on two characters from the graphic novels by Mark Millar. Carrey is a fine addition to the cast and albeit possibly harming the films box Office with his anti-violence in films speech really is at the same time the saving grace in this sequel. His character is bold, honourable and stands out amongst the rest of the supporting characters.

The tone of the movie did it’s best to match the tone in the original and to a point managed this. I personally felt that the violence and gore in this movie was missing the point of the first film. It felt forced at times and to me that wasn’t what appealed to me in the first film. It was used when it had to be used. Here it appears in almost every scene. I also didn’t like the handling and disposal of Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) in Kick-Ass 2. She was after all the love of Dave’s life at this point and whether or not there was other reasons it was forced and unrealistic from an audience members point of view. It really served as a plot device for Kick-Ass and Hit Girl to have some romantic connection by the end of the movie, which I found strange and out of character for both of them. Todd and Marty are utilised more in the sequel with Marty’s Battle Guy and Todd’s Ass Kicker now played by Augustus Prew replacing the brilliant Evan Peters. I would say their scenes with Dave had the same magic of the first movie and to be fair their are some funny scenes and dialogue between them.

Overall Kick-Ass 2 is a disappointing follow up to a classic comic book movie that I hold high in my top films of the genre. The storylines was predictable and at times forced. The climatic battle in the warehouse was messy and disorientated at times and felt bloated. Barring the face offs between Dave and Chris and Hit Girl and Mother Russia the rest was forgettable. I will say that some of the fight scenes were as impressive as the first movie but sadly there is a disconnection between 1 and 2 here and seeing this in the cinema back in 2013 disappointed the life out of me. If you haven’t seen the sequel I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s a movie that they really shouldn’t have bothered making. Not terrible, but not good.

The Wall (2017) Review by John Walsh

THE WALL

Director: Doug Liman
Writer: Dwain Worrell
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, John Cena, Laith Nakli

So I watched ‘The Wall’ last night and was pleasantly surprised at how much I actually enjoyed it. I wasn’t overly familiar with Doug Liman beforehand, but I discovered shortly afterwards that he directed the Edge of Tomorrow and played a big role in the Bourne franchise. I enjoyed the former and loved the original Bourne trilogy. This new film doesn’t really share much with either of those however. It’s more of a psychological thriller that features the acting chops of Aaron Taylor-Johnson. That alone would have me interested anyway, because I think that guy is gold and he doesn’t disappoint.

It’s a fairly short film, coming in at a mere 88 minutes, but believe me when I say that each and every second is utilised. Well, maybe that’s a small lie. Each and every second beyond the opening five minutes is fully utilised. It’s a fairly simple story in truth. Two U.S. soldiers are sent on a scouting mission to check for an enemy sniper that’s terrorised and killed contractors working within an isolated, desert area in Iraq. There’s Alan “Ize” Isaac (Taylor-Johnson) and Shane Matthews (John Cena). The former is more of a recon man, surveying the area for potential hiding spots where a marksman might be bunkered in whilst the latter is a more gung ho sniper himself. Matthews soon becomes bored at their tedious waiting game, perched on a hill and makes the foolish decision to stroll down for a closer look.

This is the spark for what’s to come, the moment the shit hits the fan, if you like, and after this point I never once took my eye of the screen. It engrossed me in a way that genuinely surprised me.

Matthews, who at first finds nothing too alarming, excluding the plethora of strewn corpses of course, is soon under fire from the elusive marksman, taking a hit to the abdomen for his troubles and sending Isaac on an ill fated rescue mission of his own to try and retrieve his stricken comrade. All he succeeds in doing though is taking multiple shots himself; including one to his water bottle, radio antenna and, more seriously, to his knee. He dives behind a dinky, little wall that’s practically (and literally at some points) falling apart and then almost immediately sets out to try and stem the blood loss before even attempting to formulate a plan. John Cena of WWE fame clearly wasn’t trusted with a more meatier role here and had to settle for a screen filler with minor dialogue parts. I say this because apart from the opening scene I mentioned before he does nothing of much importance. *Spoiler alert* He lies down in the dirt for a large part.

The Wall is most definitely an Aaron Taylor-Johnson movie. I mean, yeah, I’m stating the obvious there because he’s in the damn thing, but it’s HIS film and he’s the clear star of the show from a billing and performance perspective.

It would almost be a one man band effort too but for Juba (Laith Nakli), the sniper, who is ever present albeit constantly off screen and only interjecting at key intervals to verbally harass and torture the increasingly forlorn and despairing figure of Isaac. Incidentally, the two play off each other fantastically well. Their verbal game of cat and mouse throughout serves to increase the tension, whilst effectively giving an insight into both men’s personality and motivations for being where they are at that moment. A good example being when we discover the pent up anguish Isaac has surrounding an unfortunate incident with his friend and even the humanising story Juba tells of being a teacher and witnessing his school being hit with a bomb. This built a backstory, creating an emotional connection to the character and ultimately had me rooting for him to succeed.

Which brings me nicely and briefly onto the ending. Damn that twist was glorious, although slightly predictable, but my jaw still dropped nonetheless.

This is an easy one for me to recommend really. It’s a relatively short, little film with an engaging, if not simple story and a brilliant performance from both Taylor-Johnson and Nakli. The former was outstanding in Nocturnal Animals (the last film I watched of his) and has been outstanding in the vast majority of films I’ve seen him in, so that’s perhaps not too surprising. It’s not even close to being the best I’ve seen this year, but it’s decent enough.

Rating: 3/5

Kick-Ass (2010) Movie Retro Review by Stephen McLaughlin

KICKASS

Director: Matthew Vaughn
Writers: Jane Goldman (screenplay),  Matthew Vaughn (screenplay)
Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson,  Nicolas Cage,  Chloë Grace Moretz

I can recall when ‘Kick Ass’ was announced to be made into a live action movie. If my memory serves me correctly it was around the same time as ‘Watchmen’ that was released the year previously.

I have never admitted to being a comic book fanatic. I’m more of a regular main stream fan who grew up on Spider-Man, Superman, Batman and The Incredible Hulk. Mostly through the live action television series was as far as it went for me.

Looking at the artwork at both Kick Ass and Watchmen I have to admit I was more drawn to the story of Laurie and Sally Jupiter, Dr. Manhatten, Rorschach, Edward ‘The Comedian’ Blake and Dan Dreilberg and the dark world of Super Heroes that Zack Snyder had created for the cinematic experience based on the Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons graphic novel in comparison to Dave Lizewski’s scrawny teenage superhero Kick Ass.

If I could go back 7 years ago, I would kick myself for my ignorance and into the realisation that this movie like it’s comic book creator Mark Millar was a force to be reckoned with.

The first movie I saw of director Matthew Vaughn was the 2004 hard hitting movie Layer Cake starring Bond to be Daniel Craig and although an enjoyable movie at the time, it never really stuck with me the name “Matthew Vaughn” but having experienced his movies post “Kick Ass” it is clear to see why his movies are very memorable and have a certain style. When you mix that with the graphic novel of Mark Millar you have a recipe for something unique, very special and unexpected.

My first viewing of Kick Ass back in 2010 has stayed with me since that day as going into the movie unassuming and not expecting too much from it, I can recall being blown away by the story, the acting, the characters and the visuals.

“Kick Ass” is the story of Dave Lizewski, an unnoticed high school student and comic book fan who one day decides to become a superhero, even though he has no powers, training or meaningful reason to do so other than fed up being bullied and being a nobody.

Dave’s story up to the point of becoming a superhero is very similar to Spider-Man’s Peter Parker in every sense that like Peter, Dave wants a life of meaning, struggling with teen angst and up to this point, doesn’t really know what he wants from life. This is obviously where Dave Lizewski and Peter Parker’s lives stop and one lives in the real world and the other in comic book world.

Dave even questions to his two close friends Todd and Marty “why doesn’t someone become a superhero in real life” to which Marty explains because they wouldn’t last 10 minutes in the real world”

This is what I enjoy about the world of Kick Ass. Although in our real world Kick Ass is a comic Book hero, in Kick Ass the world is every bit as real.

With Dave hell bent on making a difference to the world. Things don’t go according to plan on his first outing as the green suited hero. In fact after confronting two thieves trying to jack a car. Kick Ass ends up being stabbed and if that’s not enough is then run over. It is at this point you realise how graphic this movie is going to be in its tone and more important it’s mature theme for a comic book hero. The scene also signifies the style of movie Vaughn is making here and it’s at this point I was hooked. It’s not that often you actually see the “Superhero” of the movie vulnerable, struggling with courage, scared and unsure of his decisions once committed to the confrontation.

Thankfully Dave survives (only just) and spends months recuperating from multiple operations in which metal plates are installed into his body and he has also lost a lot of feelings due to irreparable nerve endings, which sounds to me like the making of a superhero??? even Todd and Marty test Dave’s disabled nerve endings out and declare “You’re practically a superhero!”

With Dave now back to full health he sets up a website for victims to contact him to help them with an “any job, not to small” approach isn’t very successful until he helps a victim who is chased by five other guys and manages to fend them off, whilst all captured on mobile phones by the onlookers and downloaded on to YouTube where Kick Ass becomes an overnight internet sensation.

Up to this point I have to admit although I enjoyed the storyline but felt it may have peaked too soon. That is until Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hitgirl (Chloë Grace Moretz) enter the scene and notice this internet sensation and want to check him out to see if he is the real deal or not. In fact one of the most enjoyable lines comes from Cage who says after watching the YouTube video. “Maybe he should think about calling himself “Ass Kicked” Cage delivers this line in classic Adam West as Bruce Wayne fashion with an added snigger as to be pleased with his funny one liner.

Cage and Grace Moretz are perfect together as father and daughter fighting crime and I have to admit being shocked and amazed at Grace Moretz’s portrayal of the pint sized crime fighter. Her lines are delivered perfectly and up against the veteran actor there is natural chemistry between both of them and she really matches her on screen Dad in every scene they appear in. It’s a strange thing to say, considering the relationship but you would swear that Nick Cage is her real Dad, if that makes sense.

Also taking notice of the Kick Ass video is Dave’s classmate Chris D’Amico portrayed by the brilliant Christopher (McLovin) Mintz-Plasse. Chris is the son of big time gangster Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) and points out to his father the menace in his city who sets out to end Kick Ass’s rise to fame before he does any significant damage to the D’Amico Empire.

Both Mintz-Plasse and Strong appear to have a great relationship as far as acting goes although the characters appear to have little in common as Chris appears to be a disappointment to Frank in he seems to take after his mother rather than his father and Chris is aware of this and is desperate for his father’s approval convinces him to invest in a superhero costume and persona into luring Kick Ass into a trap. This sets up a brilliant climatic battle between our superheroes and the gangsters of the city and ends in once of my favourite onscreen moments involving a jet pack and An American Trilogy by Elvis Presley being played over this scene. It really is a great moment in the movie that will make the hairs on your arm stand up.

Overall Kick Ass is a stunning piece of work from all elements within the movie. The pacing is just right throughout the duration, the visuals are stunning and in particular the fighting sequences, the acting and casting is basically lightening in a bottle and with a great storyline and fantastic catchy soundtrack I found myself watching this movie over and over again. If you haven’t watched Kick Ass yet, where have you been? Highly recommend.